Greg Prince's Blog

Musings and pontifications from a reality based progressive

About Obama’s base problem

Posted by Greg on September 3, 2010

My friend Mike recently posted about Obama’s gay problem.  Some good thoughts, but a little extension is necessary to get things in full perspective..

Obama does not have a problem with gays, he has a problem with the base across the board and that is largely because he is under performing across the board.  That under performing has a real cost in the enthusiasm gap.

If people turned out in 2010 at 2008 levels, the democrats would be outright winning in NC and very, very competitive in half a dozen other close races.  As it stands we will probably hold the senate, but just barely.

Obama has not played hardball with Conservadems, let alone the GOP.  He negotiates away the store before even coming to the table.  He has not made proper use of reconciliation in the Senate, and has not been forceful about electoral consequences for the party of NO.  He has not been active in shaping policy and in selling policy in Congress.

He has not used his executive powers.  He could order a stop loss on DADT, he does not.  He could choose to not defend anti gay legislation in court, he does not.  HAMP is under *administrative* control and could work well if Obama choose to make it so.  Congress voted down the idea of a Social Security panel, Obama convened one anyway then stacked it with conservatives.  He could restore habeas corpus, he does not.

Obama has direct control of TARP funds, and there are about $500 billion to play with.  That’s a lot of stimulus IF he were to use it.  He could use it to relieve distressed debt and turn a profit for the government while doing so.  He could go after banks gouging customers by skirting credit card rules.    He can be actively involved and up front in pushing an agenda.

Another thing to consider wrt civil rights, as many people have noted recently, it’s embarrassing when many prominent GOP leaders are to the left of Obama on gay rights.  It’s embarrassing when in debates such as Fiorina/Boxer the other night the GOP candidate justifies their opposition to equal rights by quoting the sitting Democratic president.

And gays have started to notice.  You see, preferring one’s own gender does lead one toward certain conclusions on civil rights but does little to inform one’s opinions on taxation, protecting the environment, energy policy, immigration, etc.  I think it’s fair to say that a lot of gays lean democratic not because they are innately liberal so much as they see few options as the GOP has been so gawd awful hostile toward gays the last couple decades.

In a recent column Dan Savage observes that for all the rhetoric and chest beating over the past electoral cycles, the Democrats have done very little good, and the Republicans have done relatively little harm, at least in terms of revoking such advances as have been made.  Bush got a blank check from Congress, yet we have no federal marriage amendment, and DADT and DOMA were Democratic inventions.  Savage asks:

Say the GOP went to gay voters and promised to do no harm—no FMA, no more culture war nonsense, no efforts to block gay people from becoming parents—while at the same time pointing out that the Dems haven’t done much good. That argument won’t peel lefty and progressive gays and lesbians, a.k.a. the majority of gay and lesbian voters, off the Democrats. But it might convince conservative homos that they can safely vote Republican, blunting the Democrats’ advantage with small-but-significant chunk of the electorate. (There are more gay and lesbian voters than Jewish voters.)

It’s something the Democrats need to be considering.

The base is demoralized, feeling neglected and abused if not outright mislead.  That’s not good.  Obama got people out because they felt they had something to vote for.  That’s not the case this year for Democrats.  And they will pay in November if something doesn’t change, and change soon.

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