Disgruntled Democrats

05/25/2011 02:25 pm ET
  • Taylor Marsh Political writer and cultural voyeur, author and speaker.


Be careful what you wish for, goes the old saying. The compliment in politics that applies today is: Be careful what you promise. A Democratic congressional majority plus the presidency is a wonderful thing, but only if you use the power to implement policies you pledged to enact.

I heard a lot about this during my Washington Journal appearance earlier today. You can watch it here. Suffice it to say that "disgruntled" is being polite. We talked a lot about health care, though I don't think Harry Reid will appreciate I suggested he should take his cues from Rep. Alan Grayson; with Afghanistan and Pakistan, something I got into the discussion as well. The hate mail coming in is a hoot.

Byron York wrote recently about how Democrats are feeling, even if he doesn't fully understand it: that the power new media wields no longer makes us the "Internet fringe," but has manifested because we now reflect the feelings of Democrats across this country.

The feud is entertaining for the media, but the Democrats face a very real problem: Dissatisfaction with the party has spread beyond the Internet fringe. Recent Gallup polling shows that Congress' job approval among Democrats plunged in September, from 54 percent to 36 percent -- an 18-point drop in the course of a single month.

There simply can't be that many people in pajamas. Mainstream, non-progressive, non-pajama Democrats are now decidedly unhappy with the performance of their leaders in Congress. The presence of unbeatable Democratic majorities -- 256 Democrats in the House and 60 in the Senate, backed up by a Democratic president -- has made rank-and-file Democrats less, rather than more, satisfied.

That's because the Democratic majority and Pres. Obama are not delivering on promises and pledges through the power we gave them.

Many insider Democratic types think that having a majority is the goal when it's just a beginning. And once you decide that compromise is the way to keep your job you forget to actually do your job. That's not an exact quote from Pres. Josiah Bartlett of the West Wing, but it's the same sentiment.

The annoyance reached critical mass when Pres. Obama underestimated and allowed Sarah Palin's "death panel" squeal to monopolize the summer, with the tea party brawlers the next to hit, until the White House finally figured out they'd better strike back.

However, when the public weighed in on health care supporting the public option overwhelming, and leaders of the Democratic Party from Obama to Reid to the Democratic caucus were unwilling to take the reigns and run with it, the annoyance bubbled over with progressive and online activists taking over the leadership role themselves.

There's a reason people elected Democrats. To get something done. The sad fact is that they have not delivered tangible results on very key issues even with the majority they were handed starting with health care, but also ending the Iraq war. Then there is DADT, closing Gitmo, and on and on, with Afghanistan now seen as Obama's Iraq, as it becomes more and more unpopular.

Another real issue, on which the Huffington Post has led, is Obama's bailouts coupled with the stories of continuing record bonuses, Treasury's complicity in lack of financial transparency, and what is seen as wholesale looting of the American taxpayers' wallet with no job growth in sight.

We worked to get this majority and the Democrats in charge of using it are screwing up badly. It's no secret. People are pissed.

And while I appreciate very much the power of Obama's speeches, the latest given at a $30,000 a plate DNC fundraiser, though you could pay much less to attend a reception and hear the speech, which listed his accomplishments along with red meat partisan rhetoric. It came after visiting New Orleans, which is still a mess four years later, with Obama telling the crowd he couldn't write a check to help them out, because of the U.S. Constitution and Congress.

If you can bail out the banks, Mr. President, you can sure as hell bail out New Orleans, Mississippi and Alabama, where people's lives are still in limbo.

So let's get one thing straight. It's not our anger that will sink the Democratic majority, contrary to what Byron York writes. It's that if the Democratic majority and Pres. Obama don't listen to us they will have not only ignored the people who gave them the power, but in turning away from what we want will doom Democrats to lose it.

Taylor Marsh, with podcasts available on iTunes.