WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – If opinion polls and political pundits are to be believed, the Democratic Party will be swept out of majority control in both the House of Representatives and the Senate by a virtual tsunami of anti-incumbent feelings that will eclipse the losses suffered by Presidents Bill Clinton in 1994, and by George W. Bush in 2006. But not if President Barack Obama has anything to say about it.
Despite low approval ratings and a surge in Republican glee which is fueled by the anti-government Tea Party movement the president is fighting back with major rallies in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Nevada, so called “Purple States”–Democratic “Blue States” which may be in danger of turning red.
Ironically, it is the Obama-inspired success in 2008 when Democrats won seats typically held by the GOP, which makes the Democrats so vulnerable.
“The Republicans were going to be picking up seats because the Democrats won everything that they conceivably could win, the last two election cycles,” Dr. David Bositis, a senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies told The Final Call. “And so the Democrats had no place to go but down.
“The economy is doing bad, and as any political scientist will tell you, the in-party will lose seats” in non-presidential election years, said Dr. Bositis.
President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have spoken with almost one voice, trying to associate Republican opposition to their efforts to rescue the fragile economy, stem home foreclosures and to put people back to work, as a throwback to what they describe as the “failed policies” of President George W. Bush.
“As I said in Cleveland on Wednesday, I ran for President because I believed the policies of the previous decade had left our economy weaker and our middle class struggling,” Mr. Obama said in a press conference in the East Room Sept. 10.
“They were policies that cut taxes, especially for millionaires and billionaires, cut regulations for corporations and for special interests, and left everyone else pretty much fending for themselves.They were policies that ultimately culminated in a financial crisis and a terrible recession that we’re still digging out of today.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has repeatedly voiced similar concerns. “Congressional Republicans, led by House Republican leader John Boehner, are promising to take America back to the exact same failed Bush policies that created the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and nearly doubled the national debt,” Mrs. Pelosi said in a statement Sept. 10.
But voters have not been buying the “blame Bush” message, according to public opinion polls. Mr. Obama’s popularity has slipped to the lowest of his presidency. Heartland Monitor Poll reported Mr. Obama’s approval rating had dropped 2 percentage points to 46 percent since April, The Chicago Tribune reported Sept. 11. That’s down from a high of 70 percent approval right after his election.
“First of all, no one is entirely clear what’s sticking with the public,” Dr. Bositis continued. “The economy is still doing badly, which puts everybody in a sour mood. A lot of people are anxious, which is always bad for the in-party, and the Democrats are the in-party.
“I don’t know that tying it to (President) Bush is enough. The Republicans have not done anything to try to deal with the economic downturn. They’re only concerned about tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the country,” said Dr. Bositis.
If Republicans regain control of the House, it will lead to “three Rs” according to Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the majority whip, and third ranking member of the House leadership. “They want to repeal, reject and repeat,” Mr. Clyburn said Sept. 11, according to TandD.com. “They’ll spend time passing bills to repeal the health care law, reject what President Barack Obama has put in place and repeat the same policies of the Bush administration.”
But many liberal analysts have complained from the first days of the Obama administration that the president has done too much that benefited Wall Street, and not enough that helped those on Main Street, even though the economic stimulus that Mr. Obama and the Democrats passed which rescued the economy from the brink of collapse was “historically gigantic.”
“There has never been a stimulus even close to that size,” said Dr. Bositis, “but it wasn’t big enough, given how bad the situation was. There are things that are happening right now that have never happened before. But the Republicans, solely for political reasons, are putting their party and their political fortunes ahead of the country.”
And while conservative economists complain that liberals are engaging in “class warfare” whenever they point out that the major corporations and wealthy individuals who have benefited greatly from the administration’s economic policies have not put their gains back into the economy, at least one observer has accused corporate investors of waging an “investment strike.”
“Just as workers withhold their labor during a strike, corporations are withholding the purchase of new equipment and hiring workers,” Roger Bybee argued recently in In These Times.
“It’s as if Corporate America has gone on a general strike on investment, hiring and loans in the midst of the most severe economic downturn in 80 years. This strike is unplanned, but very real.
“With consumer purchasing power so weak because of real unemployment that is near Great Depression levels, and with wages and hours have been slashed for much of the remaining workforce, there is little incentive to undertake the risk of expanded investment and production of goods that are likely to sit on the shelves.
“Thus ‘the new normal’ for major corporations happens to be headed in the same direction of maximized profits with minimized investment, hiring, or loaning of capital,” said Mr. Bybee.
“Non-banks, non-financial institutions are sitting on something like, $1.9 trillion dollars right now. Trillion, with a ‘T.’ ” said Dr. Bositis.
“All of the companies in the country that manufacture, and do everything, except for banks and financial service companies–I’m just talking about non-financial service companies–they’re sitting on a ton of money.
“It’s true. People are sitting on money. I wouldn’t characterize it as a strike. A strike implies that they’re doing it for some perverse reason. I think that they’re uncertain and that’s why they’re sitting on the money.
“What the Republicans are doing, the Republicans know perfectly well, that in economic downturns, the government has to spend money to get things moving again,” Dr. Bositis continued.
“But they would like the economic downturn to last, and quite frankly they would like it to keep lasting. If they want to win back the presidency, they’d like it to keep lasting for two more years. And as far as they’re concerned, to hell with people who are suffering. The fortunes of the Republicans running for office are more important.”
The good news for the president and his party, according to Dr. Bositis, who is himself a statistician and pollster, is that the public does not have much confidence in the GOP, and the ultra-conservative Tea Party candidates, he says, “have no credibility.”
“The Republicans are incredibly unpopular. A third of the people in the country like the Republicans, and even that third have mixed feelings. The rest of the people don’t. The fact of the matter is, yeah Obama’s approval rating has gone down, but it’s still a hell of a lot higher than the Republicans.”
This is a volatile season, where anything could happen. “This is a very unsettling time. There are patterns that haven’t been seen before,” said Dr. Bositis. “I think anybody who says they know what’s going to happen is just following the herd.
“It’s been a long time since this time before an election where I didn’t have a really good sense of what was going to happen in the election. You’ve got a lot of polls floating around there that factor in a lot of predictions, that I have no confidence whatsoever in (those) polls. There are things that don’t fit.”