New York Times columnist Frank Bruni yesterday used some pretty depressing polling data on the mood of the country to argue that there is such a “feeling of helplessness” gripping the country that it makes the “political horizon, including the coming midterm elections, especially unpredictable.” This was the jumping-off point for a discussion Joan Walsh of Salon and I had on last night’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC.
Before we went on air last night, “Hardball” producer Michael LaRosa asked me three questions to prep for the segment. As with every show, not every question or even any of the questions actually get asked on air, but they require you to think. And since we didn’t get to everything, here are my responses to LaRosa’s queries.
1. Do you worry that your children’s lives won’t be as good as your own?
It depends on where you are on the economic ladder. Those at the top will have nothing by sunny days. The children of those not in the 1 percent or even the 10 percent will have to work extra hard to maintain the lifestyle afforded by their parents. Those at the very bottom will most likely stay there. The beauty of America is being able to change one’s station in less than a generation. The problem is that fewer people will be able to do it.
2. Midterm gloom is a bipartisan problem. The country doesn’t feel an improving economy. There’s a depressing view of Obama, and even worse for GOP. Do you expect turnover in 2014?
Conventional wisdom and history say that the Republicans will take the Senate. But the wild card is the African American vote. Their percentages are high in most of the states critical to Democratic control of the Senate. They could shake things up by coming out and voting in percentages that rock the political world . . . by keeping things the way they are. And there is plenty of motivation to get black folks to the polls: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, voter restrictions, having the president’s back. They just have to show up.
3. A nation in decline: Is there a messenger or method to restore a positive outlook? Obama wasn’t the answer. But is Hillary Clinton? Or Rand Paul?
Folks need to stop looking for “The One” and focus on those leaders who will get things done. This is a democracy, not a monarchy. Thus, a very powerful president is only as effective as the legislative branch wants him/her to be. Imagine how ineffective Bill Clinton would have been without a willing governing partner in House Speaker Newt Gingrich (who took over two years into the Clinton presidency)? Imagine what Obama would have been able to accomplish if he had a willing governing partner in House Speaker John Boehner. The American people need to start demanding that their leaders lead — ALL OF THEM.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj