HOW DEMS SQUANDERED A PUSHBACK
Melanie C. Johnson
Summertime and the living proved anything but easy, especially for the growing numbers of unemployed and the shrinking middle class. I should know. I am among them.
Well, I am in the unemployed category. A lowly newspaper reporter working for a medium-sized paper outside of the “big city” can hardly be classified as middle class, not with what I got paid. But I grew up middle class, and I remember it fondly.
I lost my job in October 2009 and after countless resumes and applications sent out into the Internet ether and one job interview so far, not much about my situation has changed other than my expectations. Even with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, “would you like fries with that,” could be in my near future.
At the start of the summer, the big tug-of-war between Republicans and Democrats involved whether to extend unemployment to millions whose benefits had expired in May. Neither party seemed to be in much of a hurry, as the debate raged through June and July before finally receiving approval July 22. One of my former colleagues in her frustration made mention of the stalled debate on her Facebook page. She blasted President Obama for the delay.
Like the refrain of an old hip hop party anthem my brain said “hold up, wait a minute.” I had to remind her that Obama favored extending unemployment benefits and so did his Democratic colleagues in Congress.
The Republicans were the ones who took the stance that if millions of people have to go without jobs, unemployment benefits or affordable health care to ensure that Obama looks to be getting as little done as possible, then so be it. I like to call it the summer of no to everything for the GOP.
They didn’t stop with unemployment insurance. Republican lawmakers also voted practically in lock step against financial reform efforts and a $30 billion jobs bill designed to aid small businesses. Still, my former co-worker was pointing fingers at the Democratic president.
While Republicans purposely failed to act, the Democrats failed to launch the necessary pushback against the GOP’s obstructionism.
The Republicans efforts to block unemployment benefits should have been one sledge hammer of many Democrats could have used to drive home the point that the Right could care less about everyday people.
Hey America, did you hear that Republicans voted against consumer protections for credit card users? BAM! Did anyone hear how the GOP favors keeping unpaid for tax cuts for the rich even though that is a big part of why we’re in the deficit hole we’re in? BOOM!
Somehow the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to be able to use the Republicans’ indifference to those without jobs, healthcare or a healthy stock portfolio as the weapon of mass destruction it truly is. They need a lesson in messaging 101. A positive about the Left is that it is a diverse group with varying opinions on issues, a broad tent. A drawback to that is when it comes time to form a united front to get some things done, that much valued diversity makes coming together as one tough at times. The Republican Party doesn’t have a problem unifying if it keeps Democrats from winning elections and prevents Obama from furthering his agenda. I am not saying the Democrats should aspire to be like Republicans, but one thing is for sure - the GOP isn’t afraid to put the hammer down.
During the healthcare reform debate, Republican lawmakers threatened that if Democrats used the reconciliation process to push a bill through, they would refrain from cooperating on other legislation from cap and trade to immigration reform. Republicans never planned to cooperate on those issues anyway, but the threat was enough to get Democrats to back down on more stringent health reform.The GOP has wielded the filibuster like it was a weapon to block votes on legislation and keep Obama administration and judicial nominees from being confirmed, breaking records for its use.
Democrats need to roll up their sleeves, grab a hammer of their own and come down hard on the GOP for its failure to act.
A few on the Left come out fighting with gloves off, but they are the exception and not the rule. Mostly, it’s muted whining about Republican obstructionism when it should be a tongue lashing and it’s a nudge to do the right thing when it should be a swift kick.
Summer 2010 Legislative Votes:
· July 15 – The U.S. Senate passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Fifty-six Democratic senators voted yes, along with three out of 40 Republicans.
· July 22 – The U.S. Senate approved a $34 billion measure to restore unemployment payments for millions who had exhausted their standard benefits. The vote was 59-39, with two Republicans voting yes and one Democrat no.
· Aug. 5 – Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was confirmed. Thirty-six GOP senators and one Democrat voted no.