"I'm a loser, I'm a loser,
And I'm not what I appear to be"
—The Beatles, "I'm A Loser"
Is it just me or are the Democrats a pathetic bunch of losers who are too spineless to stand up forcefully for anything they believe in?
Well, I know it's not just me because Jon Stewart did a great piece on them earlier this week in which he pointed out, with much-deserved contempt, that they still have 59 out of 100 seats in the Senate, yet they act as if they'll now be incapable of doing anything at all because they've lost their 60-seat filibuster-proof majority.
To listen to the Democrats (and the media) talk, after the loss this week of Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat in Massachusetts to Republican Scott Brown, there's almost nothing they can accomplish now. They've lost all power and control. They've lost their ability to govern. The Republicans are once more back in charge in Washington. And just one year into Obama's mandate too. Oh my, what on earth are they going to do?
Well, they could, as the saying goes, grow a pair.
As Stewart so rightly pointed out, the Republicans haven't had a 59-seat majority in the Senate since the 1920s, yet they have absolutely no problem ramming all sorts of nasty stuff through both houses of Congress whenever they have their man in the White House.
Did Ronald Reagan or George Dubya Bush ever care what the opposition thought as they rammed their agendas through both houses of Congress? Hell no! For the most part, they did just what they pleased. They forced radical right-wing change on the country and launched all sorts of foreign policy escapades throughout the world.
And, amazingly, while Reagan was in power the Republicans never once controlled both houses of Congress, yet he was still able to force through his "Reagan Revolution" with relative ease.
Not Barack Obama, he can't force through a thing, even though his party does, in fact, enjoy big majorities in both houses of Congress. The man seems obsessed with bipartisanship and compromise above all else, even if it means accomplishing nothing.
No matter what he does, no matter how far he moves to the right in an attempt to win them over, the Republicans always vote en bloc against him. But he keeps on dreaming that they'll come around to the whole idea of compromise.
Well, I think everyone, except Obama and his inner circle, can see that the Republicans have no interest in compromise. I mean, everyone can see this, right? Come on Obama! I mean, WTF?
The guy's way too smart to be this stupid!
The Republicans tell him he has to move to the center and after he compromises and moves closer to their position they all vote against him. He's a bit like Charlie Brown and that infamous football. When will he stop being so naive? When will he stop being such a pushover?
Obama's First Year
Has his first year been disappointing? Disappointing isn't the half of it.
Hope and change my ass! How about, "Hopefully I can change something if the Republicans agree?"
The guy promised to close Guantanamo Bay within a year. Those plans are on hold indefinitely.
He was going to get rid of the military's homophobic "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. No word on whether that'll ever happen.
He was going to bring back some common sense regulation to Wall Street. That still hasn't been implemented.
Then there was the promise to pass cap and trade legislation to combat climate change. Still hasn't happened.
And, above all else, he was going to bring America into the civilized world by making universal medical coverage a reality. Instead he's spent most of his time trying to bring Republicans, or at least some Republicans, on board, and it's been a colossal failure in the sense that the Republicans have wound up controlling the discussion and have convinced a majority of Americans that this whole healthcare reform thing is nothing but a socialist conspiracy.
Sometimes it seems like the guy's simply too naive to understand that all the Republicans really care about is opposing everything he stands for in order to make him look weak and ineffectual, so that he can be defeated in 2012. And, sadly, it's a plan that seems to be working.
Again—it can't be stated strongly enough—Obama has big Democratic majorities in both houses and he still can't seem to get a thing through. It's mindboggling.
Why run on a platform if you're unwilling to ram it through once you come to power with a clear mandate for change?
Ever since taking office, Obama has seemed far more focused on appeasing his enemies than trying to satisfy his own supporters, those who had voted for his agenda.
I just don't get it.
One thing's for sure: The Right never suffers from such indecisiveness.
Perhaps he's just too nice for any of this "ramming things through" business and as a consequence will accomplish nothing while in office. As the saying goes: Nice guys finish last.
But, come on people, seriously, if you can't get anything passed with a 59–41 seat majority, you might as well give up on governing period.
Long Ago and Far Away
It wasn't always like this, however. There was a time when the Democrats believed in what they believed in enough to think it deserved to be rammed though without trying to appease those reactionaries who were never going to back their agenda no matter how many compromises they may have made.
This magical time wasn't all that long ago. We're talking about the 1930s and the 1960s and leaders like FDR and LBJ. When Lyndon Johnson wanted to pass civil rights legislation he didn't let the racists and rednecks in the Senate derail his plan by watering it down till it was almost meaningless, the way Obama has allowed his healthcare reform bill to slowly be dismantled. The same with FDR and the New Deal. Sure there were compromises, but they truly believed in what they were trying to do and "compromise" and "bipartisanship" weren't the overriding themes in everything they did, like seems to be the case with Obama.
Ron, Brian, and Maggie
None of this weak-kneed, spineless, migraine-inducing, pathetic, liberal indecisiveness is anything new or unique to Obama, of course. Not by a long shot. For years now more progressive types have cowered in fear of the Right as the Right has, ever since the 1980s at least, dominated the Western world's political discourse.
In the U.K., for instance, Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 and radically altered the very core of the nation with her right-wing revolution. And then when Labour finally regained power in 1997, under Tony Blair, they were, for all intents and purposes, Thatcherites. That is, they accepted everything she had done to the country and, aside from a couple of little token measures, failed to roll back a thing. I'll say it again: Labour had become Thatcherites. It's that simple.
Likewise in America, Reagan rammed through whatever he wanted over an 8-year period in the 1980s. And when the Democrats finally regained the White House under Bill Clinton in 1992 they left all of the "Reagan Revolution" intact.
Same thing here in Canada. During the 1980s and early '90s, the Conservatives under Brian Mulroney won two successive majorities and rammed through just about anything they wanted, none of which was overturned by the Liberals once they came back into power in 1993, under the leadership of Jean Chrétien, even though they commanded a huge majority in the House of Commons.
It's a simple pattern: the Right comes in and transforms the country with their "vision" of what is needed; then the Left regains power and simply accepts the right-wing revolution that has taken place and carries on from there, causing less harm certainly, but in no way forcefully legislating any sort of vision of their own.
Think about it for a moment? What did Reagan, Thatcher, and Mulroney stand for? You probably have a very clear idea, right?
Now think what did Clinton, Blair, and Chrétien stand for? And what did they accomplish (aside from keeping the right-wingers out of power and thus limiting the damage they could do)?
Sure, the more progressive types of the past couple of decades are a relatively nice bunch, with a warm, compassionate streak. I mean, who wouldn't prefer Clinton over Reagan, or Chrétien over Mulroney, or, most obviously, Obama over Dubya? But wouldn't it be great if they actually had a vision and the fortitude—and, yes, the balls—to ram their agenda through?
Damn, if I'm not getting all nostalgic for FDR, Clement Attlee, and Pierre Trudeau. And, you better believe, none of them are real heroes of mine. But at least they could get things done—which seems like such an incredible ability when you look at those who lead the centre-left these days.
Mike Cowie is a freelance writer who writes about politics, music, film, travel, and much more. You can read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.