I have said it before and if you read this blog you really should go on Amazon.com and purchase Nixonland. The lesson is that the last time a Democratic President tried to push forward a sweeping and needed social agenda – middle class white anger rose up to deliver monstrous losses in the midterm elections. Lyndon Johnson won big in 1964 and then watched most of his congressional gains disappear in 1966. And LBJ had the advantage of not being a confident black man in an era of constantly streaming information and misinformation. Perhaps if Don Draper were running a 24 hour-a-day campaign against the Civil Rights Act and the country had a troubled, centuries-long relationship with Texans then LBJ would have known what Obama is up against. Seriously – if you have not read Nixonland you are cheating yourself at a chance to predict the future.
Martha Coakley certainly ran a poor campaign, which hurts even more given that she is a Williams Eph. However, just 9 years after George W. Bush took office, I am hearing “Scott Brown drove a pick up truck” and “Coakley didn’t know who Curt Schilling was.” This stuff still matters?
The Republicans have become the party that cheers when a perfect game is broken up. Sure you can’t win, but in a sense neither can the other guy. And that is now our politics – since when did every single piece of legislation of any meaning require 60 votes in the Senate – oh right, 2009. I don’t remember liberals like Ted Kennedy fighting George Bush on No Child Left Behind – W.’s signature act in his first term not related to unjust war or tax cuts for wealthy people (until Bush underfunded it). But Scott Brown is coming to town on a “no cap and trade,” “no health care reform” platform. The health insurance industry has spent $100 million fighting health care reform to convince people that it is a fundamental threat to our society, second only to Islamic fundamentalism. The Democrats bent to pro-life concerns and to Joe Lieberman and still not one Republican came over. Republicans have become a party of hypocritical (really – how can you buy the Republicans as the party of populism in practice – it would be like believing those Exxon commercials where their “workers” talk about helping to create fuel efficient vehicles) obstructionists, which I guess if you consider environmental protection and expanded health care coverage the “wrong direction for America” then you probably think these guys are just voting their consciences.
And I was out there calling Obama a little arrogant during the campaign (because he seemed to have a few moments), but claims that he is acting arrogantly from some voters I think is coded language and false. The man was elected with the most votes in United States History and has tried to push an agenda (and will likely fail) reflective of that mandate. These folks might as well say uppity because I think that is part of what some of the backlash is about, at least in terms of the speed and intensity with which it came. I don’t think it is a coincidence that in our country’s history there has always been a middle class white backlash following massive strides for black people. After the Civil War and Reconstruction came the Compromise of 1877 which ceded the South to Democrats (the old pre-Strom Thurmond Democrats, the ones that hated Lincoln) and Jim Crow; The Great Society which yielded The Voting Rights Act and The Civil Rights Act gave way just a few years later to sweeping middle class white anger spearheaded by Sarah Palin’s uglier, smarter, better educated and more paranoid predecessor, Richard Nixon; and then the election of Barack Obama gave way almost instantaneously to zealous anger.
Furthermore, in a society of iPhones, blackberries, YouTube, etc. people say they want change, but are no longer conditioned to wait for it. As George W. showed, fear from terror makes people loyal to you (at least for a time), but when people’s wallets are hurting it’s every man and woman for themselves. Our lack of patience is another factor that has led us to Brown Town.
Of course now most Democrats are running for the hills at this point because the only thing more important in DC than doing what you think is right in the face of manipulative lobbying campaigns is holding on to your power. So unfortunately, we are all headed to Brown Town soon.