The rift in the Democrat Party is opening wider every day as they try to figure out what went wrong in the election earlier this month.
President Obama has threatened to veto of a $400 billion-plus tax-break bill that was being negotiated by both parties, and is near and dear to Majority Leader Harry Reid’s heart, Chuck Schumer is calling Obamacare a mistake and Joe Biden is miffed about Hagel’s firing.
And now the pundits are pointing their fingers, while tone deaf President Obama thinks it’s a messaging problem.
WASHINGTON – Democrats surveying the wreckage of their midterm election disaster are trying to figure out what went wrong, and the question largely has been: Is it the message or the messenger?
Democrats have rarely shown a lack of confidence in their message, or policies, finding the problem instead to be one of marketing. Democrats lack an effective “national advertising campaign,” said former President Bill Clinton after the election.
But some Democrats are beginning to question the message itself, wondering if they have the right policy priorities, with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and southern Democrats showing particular concern their party has suffered for not making the economy its top priority.
Schumer even explicitly said Democrats need to focus on policies that are “more than just messaging bills.”
As WND reported, much of the criticism from leftists before the election had been directed at the leadership style of the top Democrat, President Obama, who has a reputation among even some of his own supporters for aloofness and finger-pointing.
Among the criticisms:
- Tina Brown, former Newsweek Editor: “Obama’s like that guy in the corner office who’s too cool for school, calls a meeting, says this has to change, doesn’t put anything in place to make sure it does change. Then it goes wrong, and he’s blaming everybody.”
- Leon Panetta, former CIA director and defense secretary: “Too often, in my view, the president relies on the logic of the law professor rather than the passion of a leader.”
- Paul Begala, Democrat strategist: “This is Politics 101: Always make it about the voters, not about yourself … I don’t understand it. It was an unforced error at a time we can ill afford them” (after Obama claimed the election was a referendum on his policies).
- Pat Cadell, Democrat pollster: “Our president is so disengaged. I mean, it’s all pizza and, you know, pool and political cash. He has checked out as being president, as a leader.”
- Bob Just, Democrat activist and talk-show host: “It may be that President Obama’s disastrous leadership will be the wake-up call we needed to realize the wrong people are running our party.”
But the Democrats’ self-criticism may be shifting from style to substance.
As WND reported last week, a number of Democrats thought it was a bad idea for the president to grant amnesty to an estimated five million illegal immigrants without the consent of Congress. Among the Democrat lawmakers who felt Congress should have had a hand in constructing immigration policy through the legislative process were: Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Heidi Heitkanp, D-N.D.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Tom Carper, D-Del.; and Al Franken, D-Minn.
But the greatest introspection appears to be coming from those who believe Democrats have erred in not making the economy their top policy priority.
Clinton campaign strategist James Carville famously warned his staff in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid,” and now, more Democrats seem to be harkening back to that advice to put the priority on pocketbooks.
Schumer set off a bit of a firestorm among party faithful on Monday when he said in a speech to the National Press Club that Democrats made a mistake in 2010 by passing Obamacare instead of focusing more on improving the economy.
The 2008 election gave Democrats control of both the White House and Congress and the freedom to pass virtually any legislation they desired, but, Schumer regretted, “We took their (voters’) mandate and put all our focus on the wrong problem – health care reform.”
Schumer supports Obamacare, “But it wasn’t the change we were hired to make” in 2008.
Some infuriated Democrats shot back that they had, in fact, addressed the economy first, by passing a $787 stimulus program over a GOP filibuster.
But even Obama admitted last month it was, “[I]ndisputable that millions of Americans don’t yet feel enough of the benefits of a growing economy where it matters most – and that’s in their own lives.”