Obama and the Angry Voter
By: Ara

[cross posted at E Pluribus Unum]

OK, so the Senate voted for the bailout/rescue/stickup/bank-strike/hostage negotiation and it wasn't even close: three-quarters of the Senators voted yes. The no votes included Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama and Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Go figure

Now it's on to the House. Will it pass? I certainly think so, given that it's been larded up with additional spending on tax cuts (helloooooo, McCain?). Also, I think a trillion dollar loss of equity on Monday scared the bejeesus out of many of those left in Congress who might have voted "no" again.

And what about public opinion? I haven't seen any precision-type polls on this. Most of the polling results are unreliable because the output has mostly been shaped by the quality of the questions being asked. So until we see some decent polling, we're on our own trying to decide if the electorate is bothered by a government takeover of the financial sector, or the outrageous possibility that we're about to pay a ransom of one trillion dollars to the banks that are holding us hostage, or the spectacle of a do-nothing Congress that sits by while credit tightens up like a noose around the neck of a convicted horse-thief.

But one thing we know for sure: everyone is angry. Ask Richard Shelby's constituents in Alabama. Ask Bernie Sanders' constituents in Vermont. And anger is a potent force in politics. It moves voters in powerful ways. Those who can channel that anger will go far.

We saw that first back in the mid- and late-sixties with the resurgence of Richard Nixon. He sensed that there was a powerful backlash among white middle-class voters against the excesses of the Johnson-era Great Society: civil rights reform, welfare entitlements and other liberal initiatives. And, since then, every other Republican candidate for president learned the lessons he taught: that angry populism works better for Republicans than for Democrats if -- and when -- you can present the government as the enemy.

Never mind that it's bullshit: that the REAL Republican orthodoxy is all about giving more and more benefits to the wealthiest among us -- and throwing a few tax-cut crumbs to the middle-class in order to calm their fears that they are losing serious ground in real wages while the top 1% laugh all the way to the bank. When you tax work and not passive income, we all end up losing.

But I digress.

So...the bailout: people are angry. Some are angry because they think it is taxpayer-supported, but the truth is -- it is not. It is going to be paid for by the issuance of more government debt to buyers in China and the Middle East.

And, let's be honest, it isn't really a bailout either. As I understand it, the Feds are buying -- and holding -- the mortgage-backed securities until such time (whenver that might be) that they are worth more than they are now. I'd feel better about that if I knew HOW the purchase price of those securities was being derived. Will it be via a reverse-auction? Will it be for face-value? Will it be for something in between? Will they buy the securities outright or get shares of stock in return? No one seems to know right now. And that's not good.

But whatever the details, make no mistake: it's a clusterf*ck. And people are angry about the entire fiasco.

People are angry because they know that their homes are still worth less than they owe on them. And because of that, their borrowing power -- for college or health care deductibles to name a couple of rising costs -- has been pretty much cut off. And that's even before the coming credit crunch.

People are angry because they know that borrowing more -- and more and more -- money from our "friends" in China and Saudi Arabia only gets us less -- and less and less -- leverage in our foreign policy options in the future. They sense -- rightly -- that America is in decline abroad because of this.

People are angry because they see Wall Street -- not Main Street -- standing first in line to get help from the government. They know that the very people who caused this mess will be the first -- and only? -- ones to be made right in the end.

People are angry because they realize they've been lied to for the last several decades about the efficacy of deregulation and free markets.

And -- perhaps most of all -- people are angry because they realize now that all the talk about government being the problem (not the solution) was a bunch of malarkey, as Joe Biden would say.

After 30 years of the Reagan Revolution, after eight years of Bush's willful neglect, incompetence and malfeasance, there are no good solutions. Employment is tanking, wages are tanking, the safety net is in tatters. Things will get worse before they get better.

And people will be angry -- about this and more -- for a long, long time. Perhaps, if Obama wins, he can channel this energy to turn things around. History provides him with the example of Nixon from forty years ago. But we don't want a regressive agenda enacted -- we need him to enact a progressive one.

We want Obama to use this emotion to move voters in the right direction. That is the real opportunity that lies wrapped inside this crisis.