Dan Middleton’s Political Punditry, September 14

The media will try to play up the win of a Republican in a traditional Blue New York congressional district (the ninth) as a referendum on President Obama and a portend for a general election 14 months away. 

Don’t believe the hype. 

Remember, at this point in the 2012 election it is in the media’s interest to do their best to create the illusion of a tight race whether there is one or not. Nate Silver was one of the most accurate polling numbers wonk in the 2008 election cycle. He offers this reassuring analysis:

“First, there are the local issues — Barack Obama’s positioning toward Israel, Mr. Weprin’s endorsement of a plan to build a mosque and Muslim cultural center in Lower Manhattan, and possibly gay marriage — that will resonate more in Queens than they will in the rest of the country.While all Congressional districts have their quirks, New York’s Ninth is especially unusual.

Roughly 40 percent of voters in the Ninth District are Jewish, 20 times the rate in the country as a whole. Moreover, and perhaps more important, many of those voters are Orthodox Jews [often Republicans], who often have starkly different political viewpoints than Reform or secular Jews [often Democrats], and who are extremely rare in the United States outside a few spots in the New York region.

There’s also the fact that the district was already behaving unusually in 2008. Despite having a 37-point edge in party registration, Mr. Obama won the election by only 11 points there — barely better than the seven-point edge he had nationwide. I doubt that there was any district in the country, perhaps outside a few remnants of the “Solid South,” where so many enrolled Democrats voted against Mr. Obama.”

Nonetheless, given the fact that the U.S. and world economy is slowing down considerably, and of particular worry, the Eurozone is under serious duress, sadly, the re-election of Barack Obama is not a given. 

But I remain optimistic. 

This year, primary voters in the Republican Party will be very motivated to turn out, and because these voters are the most conservative, often evangelical Southerners, they will nominate Perry over Bachmann (they might prefer Bachmann because she is a true believer, but go for Perry because he is more electable) . They didn’t like Romney in 2008, and I find it quite unlikely they will like him now, even though he is the only candidate who may have a chance at beating the President. Given that I expect Perry to be the nominee, the good news is according to Public Policy Polling (a reliable polling outfit), President Obama now leads Perry 52% to 41%, double from what it was three weeks ago.

The economic damage caused by the housing bubble bursting which lead to what we now was a shocking -8.9% decline in Gross Domestic Product in the last four months of 2008 cannot be overstated. The poor are suffering badly, and with the middle class still digging out from years and years of accumulated household debt or underwater with their mortgages, it is no wonder that in the absence of government intervention, i.e.; pay roll tax cuts, investment in infrastructure and direct aid to the states to keep public employees employed, we have no hope having sustained growth.
Another issue to consider: a good friend directed me to this radio broadcast which I highly recommend. For those who can’t listen to the whole thing nor read the transcript, I’ll provide you with a telling anecdote:

Caller Richard from Essex, New York I work in higher education, but I think that what is happening where I work is a reflection of this economy. I’m an adjunct faculty and teach more than the load of a full-time faculty member. And I get $2,500 a course. So, I teach eight courses, while a full-time faculty member teaches six. I earn less than half the lowest paid lectureship.

Tom Ashbrook What does that mean in terms of what you take home, Richard?

Richard I take home $20,000 per year, which puts me below the poverty level. I have a family of four. People may say that this is a part-time job, but…I work] 60-80 hours per week…I require food stamps for my family. I require heat subsidy and subsidy for day care for my five-year old. It’s a desperate situation.

In other words, too many workers are working in low wage jobs with few or no benefits (these workers constitute the bulk of Rick Perry’s “Texas Miracle” of “low” unemployment). Without broad based economic growth, workers will have little bargaining power with employers, and wages will remain lower than they would be in a more robust economy.
31 million people watched President Obama forcefully present his American Jobs Act, daring the Republicans to reject a sensible, balanced, much needed dose of stimulus to the economy as well as immediate aid to the unemployed.
An antithesis model to the American Jobs Act is in the U.K., where the approach of Prime Minister Cameron’s coalition government to their 2008 housing bubble/banking bust has been to cut government spending, growth has predictably slowed as unemployment, especially in the public sector, has increased markedly.
So, President Obama must continue to push the American Jobs Act as hard as he can, and remind people that if the Republicans insist on austerity and no tax raises for the wealthy, then the choice in November, 2012 will be clear. What does the public think of all this? It seems that people are receiving President Obama’s vision quite well, with more work to do explaining the contents of the bill. Quoting Steve Benen:
“President Obama’s disapproval ratings may be high, but in a new CNN/ORC International poll, more Americans say they trust him on economic matters more than they do Republicans in Congress.
‘By a 43-35 percent margin, a plurality of Americans approve of the economic program Obama outlined in his speech to Congress last week, but more than one in five don’t have any view at all of the jobs bill,’ says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.The survey released on Wednesday shows that although a lot of Americans are still unsure what’s in the president’s new jobs bill, they like most of the major proposals offered in the plan that was sent to Congress Monday.

And on the American Jobs Act, a plurality support the White House’s plan, but the more important results show strong support for individual 

provisions of the plan: clear majorities of Americans support cutting the payroll tax (65% support), providing state aid to protect jobs for teachers and 

first responders (74%), and investing in infrastructure (64%).

The CNN poll is largely consistent with two other recent national polls — surveys from National Journal and NBC/WSJ — that found “despite all the

disapproval and pessimism, Americans approve of the actual fiscal policies Obama is proposing.”

Republicans oppose all of these ideas.


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