After several days off, I thought I might come back with a different perspective on our politics than what I had developed earlier in the summer. Perhaps things weren’t as bad for the Democrats as they seemed. Perhaps things were about to turn around for President Obama and his allies. Well, with 11 weeks to go until the 2014 midterm elections, nothing suggests that the Democrats have reached the bottom of the political trough they are in.
The calamities, distractions and scandals we’ve seen during the Obama administration all come in such rapid succession that the half-life of any one is relatively short. But still, Obama and the Democrats cannot seem to get in front of any current events. They are in a permanent state of crisis, being tossed around on the waves of the daily news cycle. Any day with no new bad news is considered a good day for the White House and the Democrats generally.
The Democrats are on their back foot on every front — from the violence in Ferguson, Mo., to developments in Iraq and Afghanistan to uneven economic data to the now-ancient IRS scandal. Politically, the Democratic Party seems to be in more turmoil than President George W. Bush and the Republicans were before the debacle of the 2006 midterm elections.
Now we are in the throes of the August doldrums, and there is always one event or scandal that will occupy the headlines while Congress is in recess. This August, the blaring news out of Ferguson is more than just a summer thunderstorm. It’s not likely to dissipate anytime soon, and it could have a lasting impact on the American psyche and U.S. politics. Some commentators have asserted that the turmoil in Ferguson will somehow motivate African American voters in the midterm elections, but I don’t see any indication that any part of the Democratic coalition is enthusiastic to get out and vote because of what is unfolding in Missouri.
And of course, the president, who disingenuously asserted that he didn’t care about optics as an explanation for his refusal to visit the Texas border, now has to deal with the clumsy optics of leaving his vacation and returning to Washington for a few days with nothing much to do or say. Yesterday, Obama addressed the situation in Ferguson, announcing that Attorney General Eric Holder will wander out there tomorrow. His presence may or may not help the underlying problem of continued tension in the city, but nothing suggests a political breakthrough — much less a victory — of any sort.
As with football, we are still in preseason, but we are fast approaching Labor Day and the official kickoff of the 2014 campaign season, and Republicans wouldn’t dare trade places with the Democrats. The bottom line is, Democrats are reacting to events rather than becoming the master of them. As this campaign season gets underway, the old adage definitely applies: Never interfere with your opponents when they are in the process of destroying themselves.
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