Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Barack Obama Can Learn From John Adler

Democrat John Adler is my congressman. At least he will be for another month. This Harvard-educated lawyer with a career full of legislative experience was defeated by an ex-football player who raises donkeys for a living.

Adler was elected to Congress in 2008 on Barack Obama’s coattails. Prior to his short congressional career, he served in the New Jersey State Senate for seven years and legislated slightly to the left of center, which in his district characterizes him as a “liberal.” All that changed when he went to Washington. Adler became a stealth member of the Blue Dogs and his move to the right was punctuated by his vote to deny medical insurance to 40 million Americans. This was done to placate the Republican base in a district with more Republicans than Democrats, and it proved to be Adler’s undoing. In the 2010 election, Republicans voted for his opponent, a bona fide Republican, while Democrats stayed home.

John Adler made several other critical mistakes in his campaign, but there’s a lesson here for President Obama to learn for his 2012 re-election bid. Republicans vote for real Republicans, not Democrats who follow the Republican line.  Democrats either vote for real Democrats or stay home.  But the president seems to have turned a deaf ear to this message.

One example is President Obama’s recent announcement of a two year freeze of government salaries. In the grand scheme of things, this will have a negligible impact on the budget deficit. Over the next two years, $5 billion will be saved.  That’s $5 billion that will not be spent by government workers to stimulate our moribund economy.  Five billion dollars is how much the Congressional Research Service figures we spend on the Iraq War in a fortnight.  It’s an insignificant amount that placates the anti-government GOP, pisses off hard-working Federal employees, and gets the President nothing in return.  This plays right into the Republicans’ hands.

Now, the President has anointed Wall Street alumnus Timothy Geithner as the point man in negotiating the tax stalemate with the new Republican leadership.   Don’t expect anything more to come out of this than a complete capitulation on extending the deficit-busting tax cuts for the wealthy.  Again, playing right into the Republicans’ hands.

Almost a year ago, when the Democrats were in power, I lamented the fact that this country did not have a loyal opposition.  As the minority, the Republicans simply obstructed progress, openly declared their unqualified opposition to the president, and did not even pretend to work with the majority to better the nation.  So we had the “opposition” part but were lacking the “loyal.”  Now we are heading into the opposite direction.  With the Republicans about to take over the House, a dysfunctional Senate where the Republicans abuse the filibuster, and a President who is afraid to draw a line in the sand, the Democrats will be the ones out of power – “loyal” but with no effective “opposition.”

Perhaps the President is over-confident, figuring that the GOP will nominate an inexperienced ideological drone like Sarah Palin. And then he’s counting on the electorate to see through this, and vote for a Democrat acting as a Republican instead of a flawed candidate. If that’s the case, he should take another look at John Adler’s loss and heed that lesson.  John Adler, in his concession speech said, “I don’t think enough [people] voted for me, but that’s okay.  (emphasis mine).  Will President Obama say “that’s okay” when the American people select a real Republican instead of an ersatz one in 2012?

1 comment:

  1. Did you know that John Adler was one of three Democrat congressmen to vote to defund NPR? I am going to miss him.