As Kermit the Frog would have put it so aptly had he been a Dendrobates azureus rather than a muppet, it's not easy being blue. The Democratic Party, seemingly on the path these last four years to recapturing its brain, heart, and courage, has been repeatedly frustrated by the wicked witch of inefficacy, the twister of terrible luck, and, of course, the GOP's army of flying monkeys. President Obama's approval rating continues to hover around the 46% mark, and Republicans look primed to win back critical chunks of the House and Senate this November. The public, ever farsighted and calm, is gleefully readying itself to swing the pendulum of power back from the bums on the left to the bums on the right, in spite of the fact that they tossed out those latter bums not two election cycles ago for, you know, ruining everything. Yes, things are pretty bleak for Democrats, who, handed a golden opportunity to lead the country in a mutually positive direction, have managed the stunning vertebral feat of having even less backbone than usual in cowing to the demands of congressional Republicans (whom the Dems presently outnumber 311-219). We had our chance, and we did nothing.
Oh, except for health care reform, which will lower costs for the middle class and small businesses, extend affordable coverage to 32 million previously uninsured Americans, and reduce the deficit by 1.3 trillion dollars over the next twenty years. Also the stimulus bill, which cut taxes for 95% of working Americans and has already created or saved more than 3 million jobs. Oh, and the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights, which protects consumers against unfair rate hikes, penalties, and fees. Plus there's the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act -- the largest ever investment in college aid, which reduces the deficit by eliminating student loan subsidies to banks. Not to mention the HIRE Act, which has created 300,000 jobs by granting tax incentives to businesses that hire unemployed Americans, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which has mitigated foreclosures by incentivizing lenders and homeowners to modify loans, Statutory Pay-As-You-Go, which requires that Congress offset any measure that expands entitlements or cuts federal revenues, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows women -- who earn 78 cents on the dollar relative to men -- to challenge unfair pay practices. But that is all that has gotten done under the incompetent, directionless, wounded animal that is the Democratic Congress...except for financing college for all children of fallen U.S. soldiers, raising the pay of soldiers by 3.4%, protecting more than 2 million acres of wilderness, saving Head Start, investing 31 billion dollars in science and math education, expanding the first-time homebuyer tax credit, and incentivizing the purchase of fuel efficient cars. But that is all.
I sometimes forget why I choose to be a member of the Democratic Party, a group that certainly has its share of thoughtless crooks, craven liars, petty opportunists, and Blanche Lincoln. And then I look at the alternative. You think Harry Reid is an effective and visionary leader? I don't, but if Sharron Angle becomes a member of the United States Senate we should probably all just call it a day, lemmings-style. Angle epitomizes the Tea Party myth that the federal government is an evil, un-American hobgoblin that wants to tax you for the sake of taxing you, rather than a body elected by the citizenry to determine our laws and policies. Her website during the Nevada Republican primary (since removed, but you can see it here) touts her desire to "liberate" businesses, explicitly the oil industry, from regulation, vote against measures that seek to address the "unscientific hysteria over the man-caused global warming hoax," eliminate the Department of Education, withdraw from the United Nations, and "transition out" social security. Among the handful of endorsements prominently featured on her site are -- you can't make this stuff up -- Phyllis Schlafly, Pat Boone, the wildly popular and sympathetic Citizens United, and the Nevada Home School Network (I will pause for surprise as you learn that Angle was herself a home school teacher before transitioning into politics). While electing Harry Reid might well be the equivalent of getting a 'C' on your exam, electing Sharron Angle is the equivalent of lighting your exam on fire and then punching your teacher in the face (at home school, naturally). How can Nevadans, even the least employed, most angry at the government Nevadans, think that America will be better off with Senator Angle than it would be with Senator Reid? How can voters in other states follow suit? How can anyone who thinks rationally about the world around them believe that our best course of action as a nation is to populate the American government -- our American government -- with people who profess to hate it?
Last week, Siena College released the latest edition of their presidential poll, which asked 238 leading scholars on the presidency to rank our 43 leaders based on 20 categories. Predictably, Fox News' collective head exploded when His Holiness Ronald Reagan came in at number 18, below both Barack Obama (15th) and Bill Clinton (13th). On 'Handling of U.S. Economy,' the top ten shook out like this: FDR, T. Roosevelt, Clinton, Washington, Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy, Wilson, Monroe, and LBJ. For those keeping score at home, that would be fiscal liberals in the 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 10 spots, with the other three positions being manned by pre-Industrial Revolution icons. Where are the professed fiscal conservatives? Reagan is at 21, Nixon at 25, G.H.W. Bush at 32, Ford at 36, Harding at 39, G.W. Bush at 42, and Hoover at 43. Dwight Eisenhower, who supported New Deal policies and held fast in his refusal to call for politically popular tax cuts, was rated 11th. "Whoa, whoa, whoa," you may be saying to yourself at this point, "aren't presidential scholars, as a group, skewed to the left?" You're probably right. Of course, if more conservatives had chosen to be presidential scholars, this would not be the case. Regardless, a glance at the poll reveals that the scholars had a "Higher Overall Present View" of Mr. Reagan than of Mr. Obama, and ranked the Gipper above both Obama and Clinton on such factors as "Leadership Ability," "Foreign Policy Accomplishments," "Avoid[ing] Crucial Mistakes," and even "Communication Ability." Hardly a pack of wild liberals at work.
The truth of the matter is that, no matter how craftily television's conservative bitterati attempts to discredit them, progressive leaders have successfully managed our economy and conservative leaders have not. Not without exception (see: James Earl Carter, Jr.), but the results of history speak for themselves in general terms, and they do so loudly. Deregulation and de-fanged government, the philosophy championed by Reagan and echoed today by his party of acolytes, was once the philosophy of Hoover. A responsible government that is strong enough to protect institutions while supporting the private sector in its administration of our economy and lending a hand by way of job creation programs during lean times is the philosophy of Franklin Roosevelt (and not, say, Satan or Stalin or Sweden). And that, that right there, is your choice this November: Hoover versus Roosevelt. Regressive versus progressive. The party that has chosen, coldly and remorselessly, to block absolutely every economic recovery measure they can (even those they formerly agreed with) in order to prevent the president from receiving a single ounce of credit for our nation's return to prosperity versus the party that has let itself become shocked victims of those craven tactics. Here's hoping that Democrats find their spines, that Republicans locate their reason, and that voters figure out which candidates are serious about lifting this country up and which candidates would rather allow it to trickle down. If they don't, it won't be long before all of us are blue.