Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Footnote to History

Polls are a snapshot of sentiments taken over a short period of time. Given the general anti-incumbent feelings roiling through the nation and directed at Washington it is no surprise that the latest CNN poll indicates that Americans want to throw the bums out; all of them!

With unemployment at 10 percent, huge annual federal and state deficits, a massive and growing national debt, a broken health care system, Wall Street bailouts from U.S. taxpayers begetting huge profits for banks, insufficient financial regulation, two costly wars and growing terrorist threats, it is no wonder Americans are frustrated. Yet, in response to this crisis, Washington has been locked in highly partisan bickering and maneuvering to no apparent end.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, released Tuesday, shows only 34 percent of those surveyed feel that current federal lawmakers deserve re-election, while 63 percent say they don't. Just 51 percent feel their own member of Congress deserves to be re-elected, while 44 percent say their representative doesn't deserve another term.

An equal number, about 56 percent of those polled, believe that most Democrat and Republican members should not be re-elected. These poll numbers should be a wake up call on Capitol Hill, especially for Democrats who have more incumbents. The Democrats currently hold a 255-178 majority in the House heading into November's mid term elections, but Republicans are poised to make major gains. And control of the Senate may be up for grabs too.

President Barack Obama is not eligible for re-election until 2012. Yet 52 percent of the registered voters surveyed in the CNN poll currently believe he should not be re-elected, with 44 percent saying they would vote for him. 49 percent approve of the president's job performance and about half disapprove.

Certainly a lot can change in three years, and the Republicans will, at some point, have to come forward with a winning agenda for the nation and a candidate who can beat President Obama. Just saying no will not win them the nation's highest elected office.

For sure voter anger will be a factor in how ballots are cast. Senator Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts was a sure sign that voters want things to change. And, while President Obama was handed a deep recession and a myriad of other significant problems when he took office, he was elected on a promise of change. Yes, Republicans have obstructed, have flip-flopped and have fabricated untruths, but Democrats have been divided and divisive too.

President Obama, while personally popular, has failed to herd his flock and get his message through to Americans. As an example, it might have helped if The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or the stimulus bill, had been called the "Jobs Bill" and the money directly doled out to projects by the federal government instead of through the states, where some Republican Congressmen took credit for what they voted against.

Or it might have helped if the laudable attempt to pass health care legislation had been more tightly managed. The lengthy process opened up opportunities for health care lobbyists and opponents to use scare tactics to undermine the cause. Americans were even more confused by the debate than members of Congress. Main Street is hurting. Americans want results, and who can blame them.

In 1982, Democrats won control of the House of Representatives when they gained 26 seats. The country was struggling through a recession and President Ronald Reagan's popularity was at an all time low, a 35 percent approval rating, which was compounded by his budget cuts. Some even questioned whether he could be re-elected to office because he was insensitive to the needs of average citizens.

If the Democratic members of Congress don't get behind their leader they will suffer big losses in the fall. If President Obama is unable to overcome the political machinations of Washington, if he is unable to get America on a course to more jobs and a brighter future, if he is unable to bring change, he may very well become a footnote to history.

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