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Two-Party Conundrum: Americans Caught Between the Rock and a Hard Place in Midterm Elections

By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq.

Published September 17th, 2010

Americans are in dire need of a political liberating force that would free them from the Democratic and Republican yokes. It’s about time… and the emergence of the Freedom Party in New York State led by Councilman, Charles Barron, is a good place to start. It has the potentials of spreading across the nation to give both the Republicans and Democrats a run for their money. Democracy means Choices and Choices means Democracy.—Franklin Otorofani, Esq.

The Democrats must retool their message to the American people and stay on top of it. This is not about Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin ranting about a mosque in New York City or about some racists hating to see Obama in the White House. It’s about the very future of the United States and her place in the comity of nations down the road. America’s glory cannot be buried with the fast fading old economy, but must be reborn in the new economy.—Franklin Otorofani, Esq.

It’s barely two years since Americans trooped out in their millions to elect their president, governors and members of Congress on November 4, 2008. But in less than two months from now they will be heading back to the polls for the midterm elections. All members of the US House of Representatives and one third of all senators are due for election every two years, which invariably falls in midterms. Thanks to the US Constitution which decrees only a two-year term for members of the House of Representatives and a six year term for Senators. Such a skewed tenure has, however, necessitated midterm elections for the bi-cameral US Congress.

In this regard, however, the term “midterm” must be understood as referring to the presidency rather than to congressional tenures. Midterm elections therefore come midway into the tenure of the president rather than that of a congressman or woman as the case may be. Since the president is elected on November 4th every four years, it therefore means that midterm elections must hold two years into the tenure of the president, which, in Obama’s case, will be held on November 4, 2010, on the second anniversary of his election. 

Thus Americans have another date with history on that date. And as before, President Barack Obama is in the thick of it all. Why so, the reader might ask? The reason is because although midterm elections do not directly affect the president they almost invariably assume the character of a referendum on the president’s policies and programs as well as his job performance in office in the preceding two years to the elections. As such, an unpopular president far away in Washington, DC, is sure to become a drag on the fortunes of a candidate of his party in a local election taking place in the states and the reverse is the case with a popular president.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, however, President Obama is anything but popular at this point in time due to the lingering economic woes in the US leading to a jobless growth, which have sapped his goodwill and popularity. According to the recent Gallop Poll, Obama’s job approval rating is 43% as of now. That’s not so great but not terribly low either.

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To put it in historical context, Obama’s approval rating at this time of his presidency stands shoulder to shoulder with the approval ratings of such greats as ex presidents Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, though slightly below GW Bush for understandable reasons. Bush’s popularity soared with the 9/11 attack and remained so into the early months of the Iraq war until his mishandling of the war turned the tables against him. On the contrary, Obama inherited an unpopular war in Iraq and faltering one in Afghanistan. When that’s coupled with a recession, he got a plateful of disasters that could sink any president’s popularity. It’s no surprise, therefore, that his popularity is not soaring like the eagle at this time as it once was before and after his inauguration. Times have changed and the chicks have come home to roost. As soon as the honeymoon was over the grim economic realities soon dawned on Americans with unemployment rate hitting 9.6%. And as that number goes up Obama’s popularity goes down. His popularity is inversely proportional to US unemployment rate.

In some weird way, however, that’s good news for the Republicans, who are already salivating on their impending victory in the midterms and whose congressional leaders are already measuring the drapes in the Speaker’s and Senate Majority Leader’s offices in Congress. Anything below 50% job approval rating is a danger signal for the ruling party in the US in midterms. That explains why Obama has hit the campaign trail not necessarily to help shore up his numbers but to get his party candidates some much needed help in the face of a fierce Republican offensive aided by its Tea Party foot soldiers.

The auguries are not rosy for the Democrats, in fact, they’re foreboding. A loss of Congress could effectively torpedo Obama’s agenda and put the Republicans on the driver’s seat, at least in Congress, possibly in both houses. If that happens, Obama could be reduced to a lame duck president and unable to accomplish anything meaningful for the remaining two years of his presidency. There will be gridlock in Washington similar to what happened during the Clinton years when Republicans seized control of Congress. Even while out of power the Republicans have managed to obstruct or outright kill many of Obama’s initiatives. How much more obstructionist would they become when they seize power in Congress?

There is no question it will turn Obama into a lame duck president unless he’s willing to swallow the bitter pills that will be administered on him by Republican controlled Congress. He could be forced to, in effect, abandon his Democratic agenda and implement a Republican agenda in its place or else remain a lame duck president. That’s the humiliation that could attend Republican takeover of Congress. I could even go as far as to predict the Republicans toying with the idea of impeachment on the president, the same way they did to President Clinton under the pretext of lying under oath. I wouldn’t put anything past the Republicans in their vindictiveness and hatred visceral for Obama.     

Obama sees the danger ahead in the midterms. He’s sees his presidency in peril if he allows the forces of reaction to take hold. He sees the Republicans launching all manners of probes and even initiating impeachment moves against him if they have an overwhelming majority in Congress. He’s therefore fighting to save his presidency from being rubbished by the Republicans and disgraced out of power on some flimsy charges.

Now he’s charging hard at the Republicans calling them obstructionists to his reforms agenda. "If I said fish live in the sea, they'd say no," he blasted the Republicans, accusing them of seemingly running on a slogan of “No, we can’t.”  

“Most Republicans have said no to just about every policy I have proposed. If I fail they win,” Obama said, while carefully and methodically laying out the charge on Republicans in Cleveland, Ohio, in a seemingly aggressive offensive against the Republicans. That was followed with a news conference at the White House later where he further took the battle to the doorsteps of the Republicans. He seems to be using his bully pulpit to full effect. 

However, Obama’s newfound aggressive push-back at the Republicans at this late hour is an indication of his acknowledgement of the serious damage the Republicans propaganda machine has done to his administration’s records. And he’s well within his rights to fight back like a bull in danger. But he’s coming out a little too late in the day to define the Republicans and etch such description in the minds of voters well before the elections. The reason for his late showing is not altogether farfetched. He had been trying hard to reach out to the other side of the isle all along but has found out too late that his “reaching out across the isle” mantra is pure wishful thinking and unworkable for a party that believes in scorched- earth politics and filled with racists who hate his skin with every ounce of their beings. The Republicans want no outreach of any sorts from and Obama himself has painfully acknowledged the reality that finding common grounds is the farthest thing from the minds of Republicans, who are determined to take down his presidency by whatever means necessary.

Does Obama not know that majority of Republicans see him as usurper of the throne of their forefathers? Does he not know that’s reason why they want him to wear his birth certificate on his forehead wherever he goes to prove his citizenship or else use that to nullify his presidency and reduce it to a phantom? Did they do that to senator McCain who was born in Panana outside the US allegedly on a US Ship or wherever when his father was serving in the navy?  Did anybody question that record of his birth? Did anybody ask for the authentication of his birth record? Does Obama know that his race is at the roots of such idiotic demands being made of him by Republican nuts? He probably does, but it would be politically incorrect for him to publicly voice it out. In fact, he would publicly deny the existence of such sentiments on the part of the Republicans. Yet he knows too well that such sentiments are at the roots of his problems with the Republicans. It’s reason why he would never get their cooperation on anything no matter how hard he tries. Even if he adopts a Republican plan like tax cuts, they will find a reason not to cooperate with him by finding something in it to criticize. 

When faced with such an implacable adversary it is no use playing nice and seeking cooperation endlessly in futility. Republican cooperation with his administration does not serve their purpose of taking power back. Obama should therefore understand the fundamental imperatives of the power game. As he himself has said in the above quote, if he fails they win. It’s therefore in their interest to make certain that he fails in his policies. Why then was he insisting on reaching out to them when he knew they would rebuff his moves? Was it just to paint the Republicans in bad light as obstructionists in the eyes of the public? If all the time and efforts put on courting the Republicans to no avail were put in ramming through his own agenda with control of both houses of Congress, it would have been time better spent advancing his agenda. But he started on a totally wrong premise of working together. Working together with whom, an adversary?

Finding common grounds with the Republicans is an impossible task except where common grounds are already in existence in which case all would naturally fall in line with no major disagreements from them. Where it is in the interest of the Republicans to play ball they will play ball without any prodding from Obama. Where it is not in their interests to play ball Obama could spend all his time in the presidency trying to “find common grounds” with them, but they will remain unmoved. Such has been the case so far and will continue to be the case as the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, lamented in his reaction to the stimulus plan Obama unveiled for small businesses, amongst others. 

What the president needs to do in such circumstances and has done in some instances like the extension of the unemployment insurance and the financial reforms, is to find ways to split their ranks and peel off some parts of the stubborn Republican skin while at the same time launching a blistering media campaign against it to help define it in the public mind. That means Obama needs to get into the propaganda business just like the Republicans and roll up his sleeves for a bruising battle with them. He could do with some of that stuff. He should quit playing the gentleman and get into the rough and tumble of American politics as practiced by the Republicans. The nice guy image that he has been cultivating should take the back seat when dealing with brutal opponents like the Republicans.

Obama and his totally intimidated Democratic Party men and women had, before now allowed the Republicans to define them as “tax and spend” liberals with little or no results for the huge amounts voted for the economic stimulus program.  And they have allowed that totally dubious and unfair characterization to stick to their skins for too long. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Allowing an opponent to define you in politics is a dumb thing to do. Obama and his team have not sufficiently countered Republican charges of alleged failure of his economic policies which have succeeded in turning the economy back from the brink of total collapse.

Smelling victory at the midterm the Republican House of Reps Minority Leader, John Boehner (Ohio), made it clear to Obama he shouldn’t count on them for his new economic plan of injecting $50bn to build railways, roads and airport infrastructures to further spur economic growth and job creation:

"We don't need more government 'stimulus' spending. We need to end Washington Democrats' out-of-control spending spree, stop their tax hikes, and create jobs by eliminating the job-killing uncertainty that is hampering our small businesses," hollered Boehner, lecturing Obama and the Democrats on the economy.

His counterpart in the Senate Mitch McConnell rubbed it in when he told Obama that Americans were "still looking for the 'shovel-ready' jobs they were promised more than a year ago". Ask Boehner how would jobs be created, and he would yell out “tax cuts!” at you. Ask him further how come the economy collapsed on their heads when they were in power with all their tax cuts and he will probably tell you the tax cuts were not enough and that was why the economy collapsed. And the only solution to the unemployment problem is tax cuts and more tax cuts until there is no taxation in the US. And by the way, he might tell you also that tax cuts will reduce the huge US deficits as well!

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Republicans’ Economics 101.

Can you imagine a Republican lecturing a Democrat about the economy? Since when did Republicans become economic experts in the United States? What a joke! But joke or not it’s only possible because Democrats have allowed themselves to be pushed around by the Republicans despite their majority in Congress and control of the White House. They seem to be rolling over each time they get a hard punch from Republicans when they should be counterpunching and outpunching the Republicans who drove the economy into a ditch after squandering, under President Bush, the huge budget surplus left behind by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

A party that turned a budget surplus into $1.3tn budget deficits is hardly the party you want to a lecture from on balancing the national budget. A party that turned a growing economy into a recession is hardly the party you want to hear lecturing you on good economic management. It’s that simple Democrats know these historical facts much more than this writer does. Why they don’t stick them in the face of Republicans, who are busy lecturing them on the economy, is totally beyond me.

How about telling the Republicans to just shut up for a second while the Democrats clean up their mess? That sounds quite reasonable and natural to me, and I would guess, for most people too, who might find themselves in similar position. You don’t want to get lectures from the man who defecated in your yard while you’re busy cleaning up his mess after him, do you? That sounds pretty straightforward to me, and I should imagine, to all reasonable people. I don’t know for the life of me why it would sound that difficult to both the Democrats and the American voting public. One would think that what a reasonable man would do to a man who defecated in a public place is to hand him over to the cops for prosecution, and if he’s a politician get his ass fried and his neck twisted at the polls to serve as deterrent to others. But the contrary appears to be the case in America.

That Republicans who defecated in the public place barely two years ago are now the ones running around lecturing Democrats about economic hygiene and appear set to be rewarded by the American voters in the next midterm elections, is clear indication, not only of the timidity of the Democrats in general, but the very low regard the Republicans have for the American public. It’s also an indication of the warped mentality of the average voter in the United States. A party that should be writhing in contrition is now on the offensive and one that should be on the offensive is now on the defensive. What a terrible irony! Republicans who were in complete disarray barely a year ago seem to have turned the American universe upside down.

And what was Obama’s answer to all these taunts and lectures from the Republicans on his economic performance? Not particularly bullish.

Hear Obama: "Now here's the honest truth, the plain truth. There's no silver bullet, there's no quick fix to these problems.”

Now, that’s quite an honest and truthful answer that I couldn’t agree more with. Unfortunately, honesty does not get people to the polls nor does it win votes. When people are hurting and jittery about their economic conditions honest truth is a harder pill to administer on them. What they want to hear is not the bitter truth but sweet promise of better days ahead. Tell them their lost jobs are coming back in different forms, their lost homes will be recovered in different forms, and their lives rebuilt even stronger. Give them your roadmap to get to where they want to be. Don’t be apologetic and cow about it. Proudly show them the future you desire for them and you’re working your tail off to bring about on their behalf as did Moses to the Jews about the Promised Land.

Apologies don’t cut it. Honesty doesn’t cut it. Modesty doesn’t either. Apologies are a sign of guilt and weakness and Americans are not comfortable with leaders who exhibit signs of weakness. They’ve been socialized from birth to conquer and overcome all adversaries and adversities, natural or man-made and are unnerved and riled by feeling of weakness and hopelessness. It’s just not in their character and chemistry. Therefore, Obama should at all times project that national persona of strength and supreme confidence even in the midst of economic adversity. 

The Republicans know their political terrain better than the Democrats. They care little about honesty and are ready to twist and bend the truth with their propaganda machine and turn white into black and black into white without batting an eye. Truth manipulation, which is pure propaganda, is their home turf. Republicans are not honest with their records of disaster before Obama took office on a bleeding and prostrate economy. Against what the whole world knows, they’re now claiming that America never had it so good under President GW Bush. They’re claiming now that Obama’s economic policies have driven the American economy into a recession and have dubbed it “Obama’s recession!”

It’s propaganda at work.

They’re not honest with their records of deficit spending on Iraq with borrowed money from China. Imagine the United States borrowing money from China to fight a fraudulent war in Iraq which claimed the lives of nearly 5,000 service men and women and tens of thousands of wounded veterans many of whom are maimed or permanently scarred for life both mentally and physically shattering their lives and dreams. Imagine the lives of young men and women wasted in a fraudulent war and the authors of that war are still arrogantly breathing fire without any hint of remorse. Imagine the party that drove not just the United States but the entire world economy in recession still beating its chest like a chimp without batting an eye. What do Republicans care about economy anyway when they’re busy scouting for the next war front globally? Truth is the Republicans care less about the economy even as they gratuitously and shamelessly make their pitches on it.

These people have no qualms at all. They’re merely shedding crocodile tears about the state of the economy under Obama as if they had better economic records under their watch. For the avoidance of doubt the US economy was in deep recession under GW Bush and the economy was losing between 400-800,000 jobs every single month when the recession began in August 2008 right up to when Bush left office. America lost a total of 8million jobs in the Bush recession before Obama stopped the bleeding and proceeded to add some 3million jobs to the US economy. Yet these people have the guts to assail Obama’s records of not only stopping the economic hemorrhage, but actually growing the economy from a deep recession that was verging on depression. But Obama and the Democrats are partly to blame for assuming willy-nilly responsibility for the bad economy and playing down their achievements in that regard as a matter of policy. It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has not been able to beat its own trumpet and has been rather too apologetic about the economic condition he did not create in the first place. If anyone needs to be apologetic about the economic conditions in the US it is not Obama and the Democrats, but the Republicans. The blame for the fall of the US economy must be laid squarely at the doorsteps of the Republicans, who managed to turn a robust economy left to them by President Clinton into a beggarly economy. Obama and Democrats should always appear upbeat about their records of growing the economy from the doldrums of recession back to life.

 A president that has achieved so much within so short a period not only in turning the economy around, but also in major areas of healthcare and financial reforms, education, and technology, has no reasons whatsoever to be apologetic of his records. But the reverse appears to be the case with Obama and the Democrats in the name of humility, forthrightness and modesty. To buttress the above contention the author stumbled across this report by one Jeffery Zeleny of the New York Times dwelling precisely on this issue.

Two years after arriving in Washington on a message of hope and change, Democratic candidates are not extolling their party’s accomplishments, but rather distancing themselves from their party’s agenda.”

Timid Democrats are running away from their own records! What a pathetic bunch! What kind of message are they sending Americans when they run away from their own record in office? Democrats are sending a clear message that they’ve failed the American people, period. If so, why should they come back to ask for their votes? The irony of it all is that the record they’re running away from is a record of achievement worth crowing about.

Now, if Obama and his Democratic Party members cannot blow their own trumpets in an election year, who will blow it for them and when will they ever blow it? It would appear that Obama and his party members are waiting on the Republicans to blow their trumpets for them— the very people who would deny that Obama and his party have any trumpets at all let alone blowing one. I don’t know what it is called, but if this is a political strategy to lie low in humility, it seems quite odd to me and totally out of place in partisan politics, particularly in an election year. Obama and the Democrats appear to have perfected the art of self effacement. Each time there’s some good news in the economic indicators Obama would come out to tell Americans that it was good but not good enough for him until every American who is out of work found a job. There’s no time Obama and his self-effacing Democrats would beat their chests and crow about their achievements. Now, Obama is a smart leader, but I’m not so sure that’s exactly a very smart thing to say in the circumstances even if it shows his candor and humility.

Obama would pat himself and his team on the back only when the last American who is out of job finds a job? Why should he set the bar so artificially and unrealistically high for himself and his party? When is that going to happen? There’s no full employment anywhere even at the best of times. There will always be unemployment even in a booming economy. The reality is that Obama’s artificial goal is not going to happen anytime soon or even at all. On the contrary, the economy will continue to make its tepid journey to full recovery down the road and Obama should justifiably pound his chest as the architect of that recovery. Whether slow or fast recovery is the direct opposite of the recession he inherited from George Bush and the Republicans and he and the Democrats should be proud of their records rather than being apologetic or timid about the economy.

How in the world would a physician who revived a dying patient and brought him back to life be apologetic of his records just because the patient is not recovering fast enough in the estimation of his opponents who were responsible for the near death experience of the patient in the first place? I don’t get it.

Now, Obama may have been sounding hyperbolic in wishing every American who lost his job to get it back before claiming victory in his economic management. It may sound politically expedient to tell every American who lost his job that he would not be satisfied nor rest until each and everyone of them gets back his job, but that should not prevent him from celebrating his achievements so far in that quest. Everyone may not have gotten back his job but some are getting back their jobs or getting other jobs nevertheless. Or, what should we make out of the 65,000 jobs created in August? Somebody got hired somewhere, thanks to Obama’s economic policies. He has been creating tens of thousands of jobs every month since the recovery began under his watch. Given the huge numbers of jobs lost that might not be a cause for jubilation but certainly a cause for hope, even cautious celebration. And he shouldn’t wait until the economy begins to create millions of jobs monthly before he starts to celebrate his achievements, not quietly in the White House, but publicly in Main Street.

It is imperative that he must create a sense of the inevitable recovery in the public mind by drumming up the successes of the recovery so far rather than dwelling on doom and gloom scenarios being gleefully promoted by the Republican propaganda machine designed to turn Americans against him and the Democratic Party. 

Such timidity has become the culture of the Democrats who don’t seem to know how to celebrate their achievements. Rather than celebrate their widely acknowledged historical achievements in the several areas indicated above, they’re playing shy and giving in to the Republican propaganda machine portraying them as failures. A party which government was losing more than 500,000 jobs monthly now has the guts to tell the Democrats who are creating tens of thousands of jobs monthly that it is a failure on the economy—in other words, the pot calling the kettle black. It appears the Republicans have given some cool aid to the Democrats to drink and lie low. I don’t get it.


Obama on Attack Mode

Now, the Republicans are upbeat hoping to snatch both houses of Congress from the Democrats in the midterm elections. They’re not running on any records of prudent economic management because they know they have no records to run on. They’ve figured out that they can win simply by casting the Democrats and Obama as failures on the economy. In other words, they want the midterm elections as a referendum on the Obama administration rather than an inquisition into their tenure under GW Bush. And the strategy seems to be working. The Democrats would be stupid to make this election a referendum only on Obama and their party and not on GW Bush and the Republicans. And there is some indication that Obama is doing just that. It’s about time his party men and women toed the same line.

Addressing an enthusiastic crowd on his campaign trail Obama said this about the Republicans: 

“They think you'll just believe that they've changed. These are the folks whose policies helped devastate our middle class and drive our economy into a ditch. And now they're asking you for the keys back."

That might be a good beginning but not nearly enough. Obama and the Democrats must be on the attack rather than on the defense because, why they have a record to run on, the Republicans have none or one that they’re trying to run away from because it is so noxious they don’t want voters to remember it. It is the duty of the Democrats to constantly remind voters of that noxious record of the Republicans as Obama is beginning to do. It’s unfortunate though that his party candidates are not on board with him on this and many of them are trying to distance themselves from their own records just like the Republicans, thereby creating an opening for the Republicans to go on the attack. Obama should move quickly to stiffen their wobbling spines.

How is it that a party with an atrocious record on the economy is on the attack and one with promising records on the defense? That’s an abnormality that must quickly be rectified before it’s too late. Although Obama and the Democrats have waited for too long to go on the attack doing so now might make some difference by reminding some people suffering from amnesia that having a Republican in Congress is bad news for the economy and for America. Anyone who would wish the Bush years on America again has a death wish for America.

That said, the Democrats have a reason to be jittery about the midterms for the following reasons: (1) It seems that Americans have short memories.

Obama subtly hinted at this in the quote above… "They're betting that between now and November you'll come down with a case of amnesia. They think you'll forget what their agenda did to this country.”

This is direct allusion to the affliction of amnesia that many Americans are suffering from. And Obama is not alone in his diagnosis. Former President Bill Clinton put it even more directly at a rally in Nashville, Tennessee when he was reported to have complained that "There are three things we have too much of - too much apathy, too much anger, too much amnesia…"

Oh, that word again “amnesia!” Americans are suffering from too much apathy, too much anger, and too much amnesia! That’s a poisonous broth, right there!  Was that a correct diagnosis? Two presidents coming down with the same exact diagnosis about their people can’t be both wrong. It’s a known American affliction that has been confirmed by recent polls, which show a majority of potential voters favoring the Republicans over the Democrats in the midterm elections.

Isn’t that incredible? Republicans that were chased out of office just two years ago are now the darlings of the American voters for doing nothing but frustrating the efforts of the man they elected president to help clean up the mess left behind by the Republicans. American voters are going back to their vomit because they have forgotten how awful it tasted while it lasted.


Character Traits

Republican obstructionists are now to be rewarded for frustrating Obama’s agenda. If the polls are anything to go by, Americans want the Republicans who, in the words of Obama, drove them into the ditch back in power over the Democrats to drive them into another ditch. They don’t seem to have any sense of history at all, however recent it may have been. How does one explain this weird psychology of the American voters, which is totally counter intuitive? That would be a question for the psychoanalysts and I’m not one. But I would venture to stake out some plausible explanations. 

Before I get there, however, I would want to make this serious observation that the mental affliction of amnesia suffered by Americans in general has, not just political, but security implications for the nation. This is already playing out in Afghanistan, which sponsored the terrorists that attacked the United States on 9/11, the 9th anniversary of which was being observed at the time of writing this piece. America justifiably went to war in Afghanistan to drive then ruling Talibans out of power and deliver justice to the terrorists who attacked her, with overwhelming global support and approval as expressed in the strength of its coalition as opposed to that of Iraq.

However, although the Talibans have been taken out of power, they’re far from defeated and are fighting to come back to power. That war is far from over necessitating troops surge by the Obama administration, which has yet to register any appreciable impact. Bin Laden and the Talibans are still in Afghanistan fighting and hoping to drive the Americans out of the country to enable them do what they know best—plotting another attack against the US. Yet Americans seem to have forgotten all about that in just a few years, and are now clamoring to end the war in Afghanistan even with the Talibans gaining ground on the international coalition in the war. As of today the war in Afghanistan has suddenly become nearly as unpopular as the Iraq fraudulent war, compelling President Obama to set a date for America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan just as he did for Iraq. When that happens your guess is as good as mine what could happen to the Ahmid Kazir’s government in Afghanistan. 

This is one of the terrible implications of the affliction of amnesia on US public policy and, by the way, the number one reason why the United States lost the war in Vietnam. Negative public opinion rather than military superiority made all the difference between victory and defeat in US wars. Thus any adversary who could wear the US out and able to manipulate public opinion in the US is assured of victory in the long run. This must be a fundamental weakness in a democracy. Now, tell me how could a people who were itching for war a few years back suddenly develop cold feet after the war was launched? If they don’t have the stomach for wars, short or prolonged, they had better not start one in the first place. It’s that simple. The United States had better not start what it cannot finish if it’s going to allow public opinion to determine its victory or defeat in wars. Cutting and running is not a sign of strength but of weakness. And that’s what she appears to have done both in Iraq and soon in Afghanistan, all because of negative public opinion.

The American public doesn’t seem to distinguish between an unjust and therefore unpopular war as was the case in Iraq and a just and therefore popular one as it’s the case in Afghanistan. Regardless of the justification for a war, they soon grow tired of it and demand a return of the troops. And a president, who is reluctant to go that route as was GW Bush, for instance, soon falls out of favor and thrown out of office with his party, however popular he was when he first launched the war. That initial popularity is no insurance for remaining in power. Obama is risking that eventuality. Even though he didn’t start it Obama’s troops surge in Afghanistan is already taking a toll on his popularity as Americans grow increasingly war weary.    

(2) Quick fix mentality. This is another mental affliction of the American public. The United States is a nation of quick fixers. Americans are essentially an inpatient people who want quick fixes for every broken system or device. Anything broken must be fixed like a flat tire. Some might naively be imagining the economy to be something of a Saddam Hussein, who could be fixed with a cluster bomb projected from an Aircraft Carrier. Most Americans seem unable to tell the difference between fixing a broken economy and a broken car. That’s their problem. With such a one-track mindset, it’s no surprise therefore that many Americans couldn’t understand why it’s taking President Obama seemingly forever to fix the economy and get their jobs back without much ado. A slow economic recovery doesn’t therefore catch their fancy as a quick fix. Though fundamentally lacking in spiritual enlightenment, they want a miracle worker of sorts, who could literarily command the economy to get back on track and return their jobs to their pre-recession times. And when that’s not happening, they get mad, really mad, and all hell is let loose. It’s sad. 

That trait dovetails into what President Clinton referred to as too much anger. Americans are angry, but they don’t seem to know whom to direct their anger at even as everyone knew who drove their economy into a ditch. Strangely enough, they’re mad with the guy who is fixing the economy for them not getting the job done fast enough rather than with the guy who broke the economy in the first place. It’s like a man who took his damaged car in an accident to a body shop for repairs getting mad at the shop owner for not getting his car straightened out on the spot and get home rather than with the guy who damaged the car in the first place. Lawyers would call such misdirected anger transferred aggression, but psychologists and mental arts practitioners probably have some technical term for it.

However, this mental orientation is troubling and has severe implications for the polity. It explains why American authorities had to rush in ill-digested stimulus packages for the economy even before it was thoroughly thought through. The question to be asked was, is the economy broken? If the answer was yes, simply apply the fix! Rush in stimulus package for a quick fix, and bingo, all would be well and dandy! Well it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Huge stimulus funds are still sitting idly by in the vaults in both the Bush and the Obama administrations not knowing where to apply them and on what conditions or terms and to what effect or purpose. All manners of “pork” were loaded into the economic stimulus by Congress that had no bearings whatsoever on the financial meltdown or the economic revival.

And it explains the fire brigade approach to economic management in the United States not just under the Republicans, but under the Democratic administrations as well. Economic illiteracy on the part of members of the public is no reason for fire brigade approach to economic management. Politicians in the US are all too willing to pander to the whims and caprices of voters who bellyache over issues they knew very little about. Sometimes leadership demands otherwise because everyone cannot be an expert in these complex economic issues regarding the financial meltdown.

Sometimes leadership demands that the voter be told the truth as Obama has done that there’s no silver bullet to fix the economy overnight. The truth should be told and let the chips fall wherever they may. The millions of jobs already lost will not come back overnight and people should be made to adjust to that bitter reality. Obama’s investment in new technology to create the 21st C jobs is the way to go and if displaced workers refuse to buy into that and vote the Democrats out of power, so be it. They will find out down the road that Republicans will not bring back those jobs because they’re gone to China and India and Taiwan and everywhere else but the United States.

And the Republicans, who are unwilling to invest in new technologies, will further drive America into a deeper hole the next time around. It falls on Obama to help avert such misfortune a second time. As the Bible says, the old things shall pass away to be replaced by the new. The world is moving into a new economy and the United States cannot afford to be left behind. That would be travesty and unthinkable to even contemplate. History is replete with carcasses of fallen empires because their leaders refused to change with the times.


Fundamental Choices

In other words, Americans should be psyched up and prepared to go for the long haul, not quick fixes. Obama’s economic stimulus says it all—American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). It’s not just recovery of the old economy, but reinvesting in the new economy and that’s necessarily a long term goal. It doesn’t take a genius to understand this fundamental truth. It would appear that the Obama administration is, for understandable reasons, dwelling mainly on the recovery aspect for now. But the emphasis should and must shift to reinvestment in the new economy. It’s not a quick fix, economic band aid just to stop the bleeding, but to grow the economy in a completely new direction from the old economy. ARRA is a completely new project that will take several years not months to germinate and bear fruits and should have been sold as such. It shouldn’t have been sold as some quick fix even though it contains some measures designed as band aids to stop the bleeding. Its long term thrust is to remake the US economy and that takes time and people should be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to get there. It’s a choice between the old and the new economy.

While Obama and the Democrats are on track on this new direction the conservative Republicans want none of the new economy and want to stick with the old economy of iron and steel and fossil fuel, and the old way of doing things. With that the United States is guaranteed to be left behind by the rest of the developed and even developing world as it is already happening in the area of renewable energy. It’s a choice for the American people to make and this should be placed starkly on the table for them at this midterm election—whether to stick with the old or transit to the new economy with the rest of the world. Whatever choice they make today will remain with them for decades to come. It’s a fundamental issue that must be thoroughly explained to them during the campaigns. It goes beyond quick fixes to the economy that everyone seems to be hankering after at the present.

This is not about who gets to Washington, DC, first to take control of Congress. It’s about the future of the country and the future of the present and future generations to come. If the right choice is not made today, America is guaranteed to lose its preeminent position as the world’s greatest economic engine in the not too distant future and she will have her short sighted politicians and ignorant voters to thank for it.

People must be made to understand this very clearly during the campaigns and Obama is best suited to sound this warning before it’s too late. The Democrats must retool their message to the American people and stay on top of it. This is not about Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin ranting about a mosque in New York City or about some racists hating to see Obama in the White House. It’s about the very future of the United States and her place in the comity of nations down the road. America’s glory cannot be buried with the fast fading old economy, but must be reborn in the new economy.

It’s the investment of today that will determine the position and status of the United States in the immediate future. This is what the elections truly must be about fundamentally speaking. Reducing the elections to Obama’s popularity or lack thereof amounts to trivializing the real and grave issues involved.

(3) When it comes to midterm elections, history is not on the side of Obama and the Democrats. Historically, the party in power nearly always sheds seats in Congress and might even lose both houses altogether as was the case under President GW Bush. The Democrats also lost both houses to the Republicans under Clinton in a blitzkrieg led by Newt Gringrich. And that history goes back to Reagan and down the line. And even now as indicated above the polls are already trending that way under Obama. Will Obama defy history? His presidency has already defied history. But will he do it again? That remains to be seen. The reason why that history has endured has much to do with the legendary impatience and amnesia on the part of the American populace already discussed above. But it is by no means ossified.

(4) This is the fourth reason why Americans are turning to Republicans. They have nowhere else to turn to but the Republican Party that messed them up barely two years ago. Ordinarily when a voter is dissatisfied with one party, he turns to another party and when he’s dissatisfied with that party, he turns to another party. But where does he turn to when there are only two parties in the land and he’s dissatisfied with both? Nowhere! This is the two-party conundrum Americans are facing and the polls show their feelings toward both parties in Washington. It’s not pretty for both although they’re angrier more with the Democrats than the Republicans for the simple reason that the Democrats are the ones in power with control of both the White House and Congress. They have no reasons whatsoever not to get things done on their own terms. Unfortunately, they have allowed Republicans to push them around and they’re set to pay a price for that at the polls. 

It stands to reason, therefore, that if Americans are mad with the Democrats for not growing the economy fast enough, they would turn to someone else to do the job. Unfortunately, warmongering Republicans know next to nothing about economic management and even their last presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, in a moment of candor confessed that the economy was not his “strong suit”. He should have added this line: “nor is it for my party!”

Ask a typical Republican candidate to name ten programs he would execute as president and he would reel them off his fingers as “tax cuts, tax cuts, and tax cuts,” into ten places! Like the carpenter Republicans see every problem as a nail and the hammer as the solution. Tax cut is the solution to every economic problem and their programs begin and end with tax cuts. How dumb! Yet when Americans are driven to the wall there is nowhere else to turn to but to the very man who put them in a pit in the first place. Call it insane desperation and you would be right on the money, but that’s the reality starring us in the face as we move into the midterm elections. The Republicans may end up recapturing both houses of Congress, no thanks to an intimidated ruling party and a totally disoriented electorate.

But the American people deserve better than being tied to the apron strings of the Democrats and Republican Parties. A nation of 300 million citizens with over two hundred years of democratic experience deserves better electoral choices for its citizens. A two-party state is nothing but pure tyranny. Isn’t it tyrannical that Americans who are disillusioned with both parties have nowhere else to go but to the same parties that failed them? There is very little difference between a two party state and a one-party state as obtains in communist countries like China and former Soviet Union. Only a veneer separates the two. This is a shame that people are forced to choice one or the other rather than plurality of parties represent their ideological leanings or political interests.

Political pluralism or multi-party system represents true democratic choices in a democracy and a one or two-party system is a pathetic caricature of democracy.

It’s high time a third and even a fourth party was birthed in the United States, and the materials for that are already there in the independents. Independents account for the majority of the electorate in the United States, far greater than the Republican or the Democrats, who have been calling the shots for centuries. Although previous attempts have been made to bring that about, they have all fallen apart like a pack of cards leaving Americans in a conundrum of a two party tyranny.

Americans are in dire need of a political liberating force that would free them from the Democratic and Republican yokes. It’s about time… and the emergence of the Freedom Party in New York State led by Councilman, Charles Barron, is a good place to start. It has the potentials of spreading across the nation to give both the Republicans and Democrats a run for their money. Democracy means Choices and Choices means Democracy.


Franklin Otorofani, Esq. contact:

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