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B. Jeffrey Madoff Headshot

1 Year + 1 Election = Lots of Opinions

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"Some things make the markets go higher, some things make the markets go lower," Jim Cramer told the viewers of his "Mad Money" TV show last Monday. In the case of today's special election in Massachusetts, Cramer said if the Republicans win, the markets are headed decidedly higher.

Tuesday the Republicans won. Wednesday, the DOW fell 122 points.

"A Republican win takes Washington out of the stock market equation," Cramer said.

Thursday the market fell 213 points.

"We're not a political show," Cramer told viewers, "but wouldn't it be nice to stop worrying about Washington?"
At the end of 2008, after 8 years of a Republican administration, the Dow Jones industrial average completed its worst year since 1931, having fallen 33.8 percent from the previous year, closing at 8776. At the end of 2009, Obama's first year in office, the Dow was at 10,428.

Scott Brown, a Republican, became famous for driving a pick-up truck, having a daughter who was on "American Idol" and winning the Senate seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy's death. The irony is that Brown effusively praised Senator Kennedy in his acceptance speech, but has promised to defeat healthcare reform, Kennedy's lifelong crusade.

A Republican won in a strongly Democratic state, what does that mean? No one knows, but regardless, it scares the Democrats and it gives the media something new to talk about.

There is no shortage of pundits bloviating about the reasons for Brown's win:
1. It is a referendum against the Obama policies on healthcare.
2. The resurgence of the Republican Party and a wake-up call to Democrats.
3. The Tea Party movement and its grass roots activism has moved to the mainstream.
4. Independents are independent and voted Republican this time.
5. The Democrats had a weak candidate who ran a poor campaign.
6. Brown has attractive daughters who are "available" - at least one of them.

What could be a better time for determining the meaning of a Democratic loss than when the media reflects on the first anniversary of Obama's Presidency? No President has taken office with the tremendous expectations of those who voted for him and the hatred of many of those who didn't.

When Obama took office one year ago, he inherited an economy that was the worst since the Great Depression, a seemingly endless war, a totally diminished global standing and a terribly polarized electorate. People either hungered for change they could believe in or wanted things to be like they were in a past that never existed, somehow free of problems and government involvement.

In his first year in office Obama has been accused of:
1. Taking on too much and moving too fast.
2. Illegally occupying the Presidency because he wasn't born in this country.
3. Wanting to create "death panels" and denying healthcare to the elderly.
4. Advocating a government takeover of the auto industry, healthcare and the banks.
5. Turning the United States into a socialist country.
6. Not reaching across the aisle and forcing a progressive Democratic agenda.
7. Committing too much money to the economic stimulus package for creating jobs.
8. Not ending discrimination of gays in the military or supporting same sex marriages.
9. Wanting to close Guantanamo.
10. Not closing Guantanamo.
11. Not pursuing those responsible for war crimes in Iraq.
12. Promising to end the war in Iraq.
13. Not ending the war in Iraq and expanding the war into Afghanistan.
14. Allowing the insurance and pharmaceutical companies to run the government.
15. Allowing the banks to run the government.
16. Not creating jobs.
17. Trying too hard to reach across the aisle and compromising the progressive Democratic agenda.

As his second year in office begins, Obama is throwing down the gauntlet to Wall Street. "If these folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have." Obama is taking a populist approach to Wall Street and a practical approach to getting some form of health care reform approved. It may not be the change we believed in, but to many, some change is better than none.

No one questions Obama's ability to make great speeches. What is up for question is his ability to change articulation into action. The Republicans, even with a minority in the House and Senate, have managed to stop Democratic initiatives without offering any alternatives other than "no". Efforts to reach across the aisle have produced nothing. The Blue Dog Democrats are almost as much of an obstacle as the Republicans in terms of getting anything done. Losing one seat in the Senate shouldn't be causing panic, the Democrats still have 19 more seats than the Republicans. Now many Democrats are frightened about the mid-term elections and losing the majority that they never effectively used.

A year is not a long time, but it's long enough for those who had unrealistic expectations to be disappointed. There are three years left to Obama's term. He cannot afford to be paralyzed by his opponents whose only agenda is to see him fail. He gamely tried to be bipartisan. It didn't work. Obama has to be a stronger leader for the issues that got him elected. He has to use his oratorical gifts to articulate clear policy then act without regard to being liked or re-elected. That would be change we could believe in.

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