In 1992, Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts mounted a strong campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. The pundits considered him a brainy guy who was willing to take on the sacred cows of Social Security and Medicare. Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, by contrast, seemed like a flawed candidate. Tsongas stung Clinton by calling him “pander bear.”
The state of Arizona has unleashed a firestorm with its new law to make undocumented status a state crime and to give the police wide powers to identify and detain those for whom there is “reasonable suspicion” of illegal status. Police will have the power to demand that anyone they suspect must “show their papers” and furthermore empowers citizens to sue local governments if they are not vigorous enough in implementing the law.
Following Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s final State of the State speech and as his last budget proposal circulates, it is time to assess the long and winding road we have taken with our celebrity governor.
Barack Obama is suffering from an enthusiasm gap among African American voters. A recent survey by the political Web site Daily Kos found that 68 percent of white voters can be expected to vote in the 2010 midterm elections, compared to only 33 percent of blacks. At the beginning of December, the Congressional Black Caucus criticized the Obama administration for providing insufficient attention to the issues African Americans care about. This came even as Obama has been dropping in voter approval among whites. While Obama can still count on unified black support, the one-two punch of a lack of enthusiasm among African Americans and declining approval among whites represents a real challenge to Obama and to the Democrats. Fortunately, he seems to be holding steady with Latinos, the most dynamic new voting bloc.
Almost exactly one year after the historic election that brought Barack Obama to the White House, the House of Representatives passed a health care bill that is itself historic. No president has ever moved the ball this far forward on health care. For a moment, the dramatic vote recalled the enthusiasm and esprit that characterized the Obama presidential campaign. We well remember the long lines of people young and old, rich and poor, of all races and ethnicities, preparing to cast the vote of their lives.
The struggle to pass health care reform has everything to do with the creation of a new Democratic party that can exercise power on a national basis. It has almost nothing to do with the Republicans, who are essentially irrelevant to the policy debate. Democrats are a work in progress, and they are experiencing severe growing pains. It’s turning out that the 2008 election was the beginning, rather than the end, of this process.