Primary elections are being held in states across the country and if you were to believe the chatter in the media, the results will be a harbinger for the Obama administration. The upcoming midterm elections will certainly be a test for the President, as he faces crises that threaten to undermine his agenda. Voter anger is certainly rising, some of it justified and some it manufactured, and there is an anti-incumbency mood brewing among the electorate. Meanwhile, though President Obama’s approval ratings have dipped from their previous unsustainable high, it is Congress that is feeling the wrath of voters.
Against the backdrop of the primaries, the Tea Party movement is making noise as a counter to the supposed “status quo.” The Tea Party, part dissent, part ignorance, has yet to define itself. Borne out of anger, it most often sounds angry, white and conservative with a clear connection to the right leaning aspects of the Republican Party. It is a movement steeped in rhetoric, some of it racially coded, which has conveniently tapped racist anti-Obama sentiments to build its ranks. Its populist anti-government, anti-tax message is a convenient crutch for many supporters who are angry over their personal economic circumstances and need a target for their wrath. Anger in our politics has always been used to motivate dissent, and the Tea Party is no exception.
The problem with all the hype around today’s primaries is that it obscures some very real issues our leaders in Washington need to tackle. By dissolving into a partisan shouting match, the primaries cloud some real differences in ideological approaches to governance that need to be examined. Critics of the Obama administration, including Republicans and Tea Party candidates, have chosen to invest in painting a caricature of the President that offers no opportunity for a real debate on the issues. Instead of speaking directly to policy differences, what we hear instead are silly characterizations of President Obama as a socialist and rhetoric that reminds us of the worst days of Jim Crow. It is one of the downsides of today’s Internet driven political discourse that real political debate is replaced by mean spirited attacks and stereotyping.
The right is not alone in turning this election cycle into a farce, so-called “progressives” are heating up the political wires, expressing their discontent over the President’s supposed failure to advance their agenda. The irony is that most Blacks, who should fall within the definition of progressive for political purposes, are far from consideration and commentary among the progressives who are crying foul. Blacks, of any group of Americans have a right to be dismayed, or even angry for that matter. Having waited faithfully for the election of a Black to the presidency, many Black Americans now sense November 2008 might have been a pyrrhic victory. We celebrate the election of Barack Obama, and take pride in his presidency, but sense that our fortunes may not change much while he is in office. Most Blacks don't blame the President, we look at the cards he has been dealt and empathize with the challenges he must confront. The economic downturn is devastating the Black community but we have chosen to remain patient and steadfast in our support of the President because we know what his success means to all of us.
The Democrats will no doubt lose seats in the midterm elections come November. It is inevitable and historically the case that the party in the White House suffers at the polls during the midterm cycle. The real question is whether there will be the type of partisan turnover that we witnessed in 1994 when Republicans took over the House and ushered in Newt Gingrich as Speaker. The palatable voter anger seems to suggest a significant shift in seats but the voters also seem to be angry with everybody, not just Democrats. The cross-party anger might be a powerful tool in causing voters to pause before they pull the lever and first think about why they are so angry. If they do, they might realize the enemy is not who they think.