Sunday, August 29, 2010

Have the Democrats Delivered?

After six years of Republican rule and two years of stalemate (the Democrats barely controlling Congress and a Republican president) the Democrats came into firm control on 20 January 2009. The country was in terrible shape:

  • 750,000 jobs lost a month
  • two long running wars, one going very poorly
  • a $1.2 trillion dollar deficit
  • over $10 trillion of debt
  • a deep recession
  • an auto industry teetering on the brink
  • a financial system in existential crisis
It was obvious we needed to change direction and the Democrats promised to. Two years later it's ridiculous to think all our problems should be solved, but in an election year it's fair to ask if President Obama and the Democrats have made enough progress to warrant another two years control of Congress. Have the Democrats delivered, to a reasonable extent, on the promises candidate Obama made?
  • Iraq Candidate Obama promised to bring the troops home. The last combat troops left on schedule this August and the rest are due to return next year. Democrats delivered.
  • Afghanistan Candidate Obama promised to focus attention and American power on the destruction of al Qaeda, especially in Afghanistan. Obama tripled the troops on the ground and appointed General Patraeus, who turned the Iraq war around, to the Afghan command. Democrats delivered what they promised, but not what the Left wanted.
  • Health care Candidate Obama promised comprehensive health care for all Americans. This spring, over strenuous Republican opposition, Congress passed the first comprehensive health care bill in U.S. history, dubbed ObamaCare by the Right. While I believe this bill needs significant improvement, nonetheless Democrats delivered as promised.
  • Help the middle class Candidate Obama promised to focus on supporting the American middle class. To this end, the stimulus bill contained the largest middle-class tax cut in history. Much of ObamaCare supports the middle class as well. For example, adult children up to age 26 may now be on their parent's health plan (that one helps me :-) Democrats delivered, but more is needed.
  • Don't Ask Don't Tell Candidate Obama promised to end the military's discriminatory policy towards gays and lesbians. Legislation ending Don't Ask Don't Tell passed the the House and a key Senate committee. Democrats have partially delivered.
  • Nuclear Threat Obama has undertaken a number of initiatives to reduce the availability of radioactive materials and negotiated a significant reduction in the world's supply of nuclear weapons. Democrats delivered
  • Global Warming Candidate Obama promised to create a cap and trade system to help with Global Warming. This is stalled in the Senate. Democrats did not deliver. They can't break the Republican filibuster.
  • Green energy Candidate Obama promised to invest in green energy initiatives. The stimulus bill included $90 billion for solar, wind, electric car batteries, smart grid, and home weatherization -- the largest such investment in US history. Democrats delivered.
  • Open Government Candidate Obama promised to make government more open, in large part by putting information on the web. A number of steps have been taken in this direction. Democrats are delivering, but there's a long way to go..
  • Financial Reform Candidate Obama promised to reform the financial system. A sweeping financial reform bill was recently passed. Democrats delivered..

    More generally the ObamaMeter web site shows that of Obama's promises 121 have been kept, 39 resulted in compromise, 22 were broken, 81 stalled, and 240 are in the works. While purists may despair, this is pretty good for the real world.

    If it's important to you that politicians deliver on their promises, then it would be wise to reward those who do so by reelecting them. The Democrats have hardly been perfect in this regard, but they've been pretty good. Vote for them.

  • Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Campaign 2010

    The Republicans are hoping to wrest control of Congress from the Democrats this year, and they have a decent chance of succeeding. Their basic strategy is to make the election a referendum on Democratic rule. The country is hurting -- 9.5% unemployment, $1.4 trillion deficit, a weak recovery, two wars dragging on -- making this a politically sound approach.

    The Democrats need to make the election not a referendum but a choice between the two parties. Their question is: do you want Republican or Democratic rule? This works because Republican rule ended just under two years ago and it was a disaster: the last month of Bush's term lost 750,000 jobs, the deficit was $1.2 trillion, the economy was in the deepest recession since World War II, the financial system was on the brink of total collapse, and the Republicans started and failed to win both of the wars that are dragging on. The Democratic story is: yes times are tough, but things have improved as a result of our rule (which is true), two years isn't enough time to turn around the mess we inherited (which is probably true), so give us two more to show we can not just make things better, but makes things good.

    There is a second message the Democrats can use in some races: some Republican candidates are extremists. The Senate candidate in Nevada wants to end Social Security and Medicare, which an awful lot of Tea Party members live on. She has also hinted at turning to violence if conservatives don't win at the ballot box. Rand Paul, another Senate candidate, thinks hanging a 'Whites Only" (or for that matter "Blacks Only") sign in a public restaurant should be legal. Several candidates believe rape victims should be forced to bear their rapist's baby. These candidates will do everything they can to avoid attention to these position. The Democrat's goal is to get extreme past statements on the airwaves and try to force these candidates to restate their positions.

    President Obama came up with a great image for the Democrats while in Detroit talking to auto workers: everyone knows you put the car in "D" to go forward and "R" to go backward.