Yes we can or yes we will? It is about time Obama stepped out of the hypothetical and into reality. After all, he was elected because he promised a fundamental change in Washington. It is little wonder then that after an underwhelming first year in office, conservatives and liberals alike are wondering when he will finally take ownership of this presidency. If recent news is any indication, Obama may be forced to do so soon, if for no other reason than blaming Bush, rather than coming up with working policies, is falling flat.
The Bush attacks are coming from all over:
- A campaign advertisement for Jon Corzine closed with “Chris Christie: Bush’s friend. Bush’s policies. Bad for New Jersey.
- A radio ad from Creigh Deeds in the Virginia gubernatorial race featured dialogue like, “George Bush – what a disaster for our economy,” “What I can’t figure out is why this Bob McDonnell wants to do it just like Bush” and “Creigh Deeds: a little more Mark Warner and a LOT less George Bush”
- Or the Massachusetts Democratic Party which ran a mailer for the Coakley campaign that said, “What can Brown do to you? He can reward corporations that ship your job overseas just like George W. Bush.”
So what do all of these have in common (beyond a backhanded shout-out to George Bush)? They all lost; with two of the races representing upsets in key Democratic states.
But not all liberal pundits have learned from the mistakes. In his recent article “Democrats Need to Learn the Blame Game” James Carville argues that,
“Democrats would not be playing the blame game with one another for the loss for the healthcare debacle if they had only pointed fingers at those (or in this case, the one) who put Americans (and most of the world) in the predicament we’re in: George W. Bush.”
If this is the best strategy Democrats can come up with to try and regain the momentum they have lost over the past year, consider me ecstatic. After all, as Steve Hidebrand, a top aide on Obama’s presidential campaign told Politico,
“Voters are pretty tired of the blame game. . . What a stupid strategy that was.”
But more importantly, it sends a signal that the Democrats are out of ideas. The public, fearful of a the words “trillion” and “debt” being used so often in the same sentence had long abandoned many of the Democrat’s plans. The stimulus was a waste. The bailouts were a bust. The only arrow left in the Democrat’s quiver was supposed to be the one that would win the war – health care. But with Scott Brown’s upset bid signaling that the public didn’t want the Democratic health care plan, the party has been left searching for answers. Thus far the only thing they have been able to come up with is a freeze on discretionary spending that Obama previously called “a hatchet” when we really need, and “a scalpel.”
With their fragile house of cards, constructed in back room deals and glued together with the mortar of Barack Obama’s personality, now in ruins, Democrats are resurrecting their favorite villain…George Bush. But going negative won’t work. Not for the party whose slogan in 2006 was “A New Direction for America.” And it especially won’t work with the young adults who carried him into office.
Young adults engaged in campaigns and showed up at the polls in record numbers based on the promise of “change.” They wanted change from the passing the buck blame game that had become politics as usual in Washington. A grassroots campaign which mobilized and organized enormous numbers of young adults convinced people that Barack Obama was that change. As Patrick Ruffini explained on the NextRight,
[W]hat happens when the campaign goes away? What happens when the enthusiasm inevitably ebbs and the hard work of governing begins? The immediate benefits of a bottom-up strategy become less clear. You revert to traditional instincts, where powerful obstacles stand in the way of getting things done — even amongst your base, and the wielding of massive political machinery cannot be left to amateurs.
More than simply reverting to top-down governing, it appears that the Democratic leadership has relapsed ever further – to playing the blame game.
As 2008 made clear, we are tired of leaders passing the buck, we want results. It is time for the President to take ownership of the mistakes he has made on the economy, on health care, and on the stimulus. Young adults are smarter than to have their attention diverted from the recent causes of our lack of progress. It’s time to put the Bush-blaming to bed. But do Democrats have any ideas left to take its place?
- Brandon Greife, Political Director, College Republican National Committee (www.crnc.org)