"They are unanimous in their hatred for me
and I welcome their hate."
- Franklin D. Roosevelt,
speaking about the banks opposition to his policies
Given successive wins for the Democratic party in 2006 and 2008, with the exception of Harry Reid in Nevada, things went about as expected last night. Simply put, your base can't get excited when Wall Street swims in record profits, while unemployment and debt are higher today then when you took office (even if President Bush's policies are to blame).
Still, we need to keep in mind that, after his wildly unpopular court packing scheme, President Roosevelt saw 82 House seats go to the Republicans in 1938. Here, President Obama needs to understand that, in addition to having to swim in the economic backwash of the 2008 market collapse, he did a terrible job of selling health care reform. Now he needs to stand with the unemployed and others who are on the losing side of the America's biggest wealth and income gaps since the Great Depression.
Simply put, embracing Wall Street in the hopes that they will do the right thing, and then playing nice with the Republicans - who smell 2012 blood in the water - will not stop his opponents from painting him as socialist-communist-fascist-big spending-big government-liberal.
There's a few things President Obama can take away from yesterday's election.
Lesson I: Don't do Wall Street's bidding, and then turn your back on Main Street and the unemployed with weak policies in the housing and jobs sector.
Lesson II: If Republicans can generate this kind of loss by saying "no" and watching you take credit for record foreclosures, record bankruptcies, and 10% unemployment - while America's moneyed elite party on - don't expect them to suddenly help you look presidential and accomplished over the next two years.
Solution: President Obama needs to channel his inner-FDR and develop his FDR Moment. President Roosevelt raised the ire of Wall Street's biggest financiers by telling America, "We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob."
Absent this - or an unexpected economic recovery - here's my prediction of what's probably going to happen over the next two years:
* Republicans will put out a couple of feel-good gestures over the next few months (appearances are important; and they're feeling giddy).
* Legislation is proposed/passed, but with baggage (i.e. with plenty of earmarks or culture war poison pills)
* Republicans claim (beginning around March) they can't work with an "inflexible" president.
* Gridlock, finger pointing, and Obama gets tagged as a failed president (as he continues to try and court Wall Street).
If President Obama thinks he can pull a Clinton after 1994 he's mistaken. He doesn't have the political or economic room for playing nice. There's too much debt and unemployment, which has the Republicans salivating (because they'll pin everything on him). With Wall Street and Republicans smelling blood, President Obama needs to know that America doesn't have the patience to stand by and watch as the financial sector turns on debtors and homeowners, while Wall Street and America's aristocracy swim in record profits and wealth.
The only problem for President Obama is that he hasn't set the table for his FDR moment. What a dilemma.
P.S. For our local politicos, here are the election results for Kings County and Kern County. For those of you who are unfamiliar with California politics, Kings and Kern County are conservative strongholds in the southern San Joaquin Valley. The region is dominated by agriculture and oil money, and has more in common with Texas politics than it does with California's coastal politics.