Baltimore – There are nightmares and then there are re-occurring nightmares, but why do they come during the mid-term elections. I’m guessing this is being mumbled by President Obama on the day after the Republicans cleaned his clock in the House of Representatives, the Senate and in Governors seats. These mid-term elections have left the Democratic President with few options to push his agenda. The electorate has sent a clear message, “get something done.”
The members of the GOP aren’t crowing but, is there an opening? Here a few of the questions that will need to be answered. Will gridlock be the order of the day or will veto overrides settle the scores? Should we expect mischief with a lame duck session? Is it time to get even?
So what happened? Some predicted the outcome and some didn’t see this coming? First a history lesson, the president of the presiding party often looses seats in congress in a mid-term election. The President can help minimize these losses but, a number of candidates did not want the president nor did they want to be seen with him. WOW.
There has been narrative since the President’s initial election by the GOP to thwart his efforts. His political mandate was short lived. He became the Republican Party’s “boogie man.” It was illustrated in Tea Party rallies and mantra’s like “he wasn’t born in the United States; he’s a communist…ect.
The President has down played his “Blackness.” Sometimes to his advantage and some will say to his detriment. “I am not the Black President; I am the President of United States.” Black comics have mocked this sentiment (Key and Peele, and SNL). Some suggest this is playing the “race card.” Leaders of the U.S. must walk a fine line.
In his post election address the President did not cower instead he reiterated a message he has said on several occasions, “The American people want us to get the job done.” He acknowledged his status a “lame duck.” He acknowledged the winners but, also noted “the 2/3’s of American who didn’t vote.” Claiming the “the bully pulpit” he up the ante for those looking for a conciliator in chief, “As President I have unique position.” He knows those in the GOP have a deep anger for his views, and more importantly his policies. There will be some give on ideas but, in the African-American community this is the price you pay when you can’t hold the reins of power in other branches of government. “We just got to keep at it.”
Fear and Loathing
Following a “bloodbath” like this there is a lot of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking.” The lack of an engaged electorate played out to perfection. The results show those participating in 2014 election were whiter and older. The Democratic Party has been hard press to connect with this group since Jimmy Carter. They have used Social Security to rally the group and scare tactics about Medicaid to mobilize. Guess what the Republicans have paid attention and co-opted these ideas.
Even though Obama was not on the ballot, the GOP used his name often. The President’s poll numbers don’t help and a series of activities
Activities on the ground in several states where efforts to create voter identification were successful sent a message to Black voters, “they don’t want us to participate.” It energized some Black voters but unlike in Presidential years Black votes for Obama top 90%. Add women, young, Latino, and college students they swamp an older electorate. The problem is when there isn't a Presidential race. You can use data tricks but, the ground game is where winners are made.
Once again the GOP is not playing catch up in this aspect as of electioneering. Lastly, the GOP has stayed on message. It has forced out extreme candidates and found the answers to positions which didn’t play well with the voters.
Lastly, a number of so called “Blue Dog Democrats” in Southern states have seen their constituency flip to Republicans. Obama is the “boogie man” to them. A lot of them see a country that is changing and doesn’t see them as a credible participant in the process. This has “pissed them off.” Code words from politicians are signals which question the legitimacy, the mandate, and the veracity of this President. So what are these “Blue Dog Democrats” to do? Run against the President. Ads from this political groups talked more about how they voted against the President’s policies than trumpeting what the policies have done. Sorry, this is a recipe for disaster. Also isn’t it disingenuous to ask for the political funding but smack the hand of the person who is giving it to you. Holding on to this last rung in the South is Senator Mary Landrieu. She will have a run off in January of 2015 to determine if she returns or is vanquished. She admits this will be tough. She conceded the President isn’t popular in Louisiana and it has aracial tone (finally a piece of honesty). The GOP will likely continue to make this about Obama. How do you counter? I’ll leave that to professionals to work out.
From where I’m sitting, “What does this President have to lose?” Change and Hope was the mantra. In reality it came with Division and Confrontation. The National Review in an editorial suggested Republicans continue push confrontation and not work with the President. Another two years of nothing? In my Clint Eastwood voice, “go ahead and make my day.”
This changing landscape has possibilities, problems and course corrections. Let me start with possibilities. The Black electorate is not monolithic but it has been the solid rock of the President’s base. It will be up for grabs in the next Presidential cycle. This summer I invited Renice Prebius to National Association of Black Journalist Conference in Boston. He was adamant “Charles, we can’t be a White Southern Party…we must go to Black, Brown, and communities of color and make the argument for our candidates.”
Conversely, some of the power structure within the Democratic Party asks, “Where this constituency will go?” The lock of Democratic Party on Black voters may not fade anytime soon. There is a marriage of convenience for those at the top of the group to continue this winning strategy. However, where is a national view of peeling off the lock of the White Voters who see the GOP as their party.
The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has three new GOP members including the first female GOP member Rep. Mia Love. “Many naysayers said Utah would not elect Black Republican LDS woman to Congress.”). Look the CBC must either recognize there are different strands of Black Politicians whose political viewpoints aren’t compatible. Lastly, don’t be afraid to form new alliances, create dialogue when there isn’t any, and don’t be forced into a corner even if it’s the POTUS.Like her counterpart in the Senate Tim Scott she has downplayed her race in the outcome of her election (So why did she say
The bench of the Black Democratics is weak. I have seen a lot of young people volunteering and getting jobs. What I am not seeing is a passing of the baton. You ask these newly minted folks for help. You asked them to help you to understand social media. You created to new task-forces for them to work on including their passions i.e. music, social interaction etc… Is now the time to get out of the way? I know failure at this level is big, but tell me anyone who made it to the top who hasn’t failed.
In two years a number of people will be talking about how they help elected the first Black President. After that time frame the question will be, Will there ever be another Black President?