One-Term Obama?

11/04/2010 04:38 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The morning after the election I was asked my reaction to what unfolded the day before.

I was probably not the right person to ask. For a long time I held that Democrats would hold both the House and the Senate. In that judgment I was wrong -- and in the case of the House, egregiously wrong.

There's a part of me that hates when analysts, pundits and pollsters get it right. Tuesday they did.

Of course, it's what they do with their lives, breaking down elections, congressional race by congressional race, senate race by senate race, etc. They do it by ethnicity and age, by income and education, and whatever else they deem characteristic of We The People. For them it's almost a science, but sometimes they miss, but not Tuesday. So you give them that.

I told a reporter friend in July of '08 Senator Obama would be elected president and Democrats would take both houses of Congress. I was convinced jobs and the economy were the major issues before the country, and neither had fared well under President Bush and the Republicans.

That's changed. The job situation and the economy continue to decline. There is big time hurt, almost everywhere, but especially in the heartland (as the 60 Minutes segment Sunday night on Newton, Iowa, devastatingly shows).

I have been consistent in my view that neither the president nor his economic advisors nor the Congressional leadership gets it -- in either party.

From the outset of Mr. Obama's presidency I opposed the Tim Geithner, Larry Summers, Ben Bernanke troika. I thought then it was all about Wall Street. That hasn't changed. Two years on it's still about big profits and big bonuses on Wall Street. (Six hundred thousand dollars was the average income of Goldman Sachs employees last year.)

Executive to workers pay in America once stood at 14-1, now it stands at 401-1 -- and in the case of some Wall Street executives, 2500-1. (Please tell me how you sustain a democratic society with that kind of income disparity?)

Wall Street soars, while Main Street sinks.

The wrath of the right, of the Tea Party followers, was based in job loss and the destruction of the Middle Class and Main Street -- and Election Day they reacted with vengeance. They voted to out the ins and Democrats being the ins were outed. If you stood against power, against privilege, you were mostly a winner.

If you think the rage against the president was bad this time, just watch what happens the next two years. The toxic combination of Fox News and right wing talk radio, already out of control, trampling on truth and people's reputations, will continue its unceasing attacks.

No one should underestimate the collective effect of this on the general populace, as there is no progressive alternative (well, maybe, Comedy Central). And all the while the Big Lie about "liberal media" goes unchallenged.

It is a measure of the propaganda skills of those on the right that many Americans believe newspapers, magazines, and television/radio media in America is controlled by liberals. No, untrue. Not even close. Conservative corporate interests control them -- and always have.

When Senator Obama was elected president he reached out to Republicans. They responded, despite having been roundly defeated, by becoming the party of "No." Since that proved a "winning" strategy, why change?

So, how should Mr. Obama respond?

By becoming the president he hasn't been -- by opposing the party opposite with a hammer because the velvet glove hasn't work. The Republicans know the "game" is about power and the president hasn't fully engaged his own. As President Johnson crudely, but famously said, "If you have a man by his balls his head will follow." (Certainly, Rahm Emanuel, before returning to Chicago to run for mayor, shared that wisdom with Mr. Obama, but apparently the president wasn't persuaded.)

Will that happen? Will Mr. Obama use the bully pulpit of the presidency?

I think not.

I think the president will continue to believe it's about cooperation not confrontation, of accommodation not accusation; that he is more likely to follow Sam Rayburn's advice, "To get along you go along", than Lyndon Johnson's. If so, he will be wrong. Seriously, mistaken.

If that's Mr. Obama's approach, he will be a one-term president.

That would be a dreadful thing for America; for as disappointing as Mr. Obama appears to have been, the Republicans have no one of comparable substance to offer - neither governors Huckabee, Palin, nor Romney, measure up.

But, as we learned Tuesday, "substance" isn't always what people vote for.

Have a nice day.

George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader


Barack Obama