If Jason Easley is right in his Politicususa article, “Payback Time: Obama Plans On Punishing All Of The Republicans Who Obstructed Him,” it’s past due for him to do so. For that matter, Democratic politicians in general need to demonstrate their convictions to their base—who are increasingly seeing them as no better than the Republicans.
Throughout his presidency, Obama’s critics on the left have faulted him for bending too far backward to accommodate the obstructionist Republican opposition. Albeit he has also taken unrealistic criticism from political neophytes on everything from the use of drones to policy regarding Wall Street, his failure to take a clear stand on environmental issues—like the Keystone XL pipeline (KXL)—may have been the most costly.
While the environment and climate change are not among the top priorities for voters in general, they at least make it onto the polls—while the use of drones and handling of the prisoners at “Gitmo” do not. Moreover, how environmental issues are addressed by Democrats in office is extremely important to the base, regardless of rank against other issues.
From his declaration of an “all of the above” energy policy to his confirmation of it through his appointment of Ernest Moniz as Secretary of Energy, Obama sent clear signals to his environmentalist base that he did not care about their concerns—despite his initial statements in opposition to KXL.
A number of factors may have played into the 2014 electoral fiasco. Not the least of them was the mainstream media characterization of the failure of what has generally been called the “do nothing Congress.” Undoubtedly, many poorly informed Democrats were unaware of the extent to which Republican obstruction factored into that failure. That, and dissatisfaction with Democrats—but especially with President Obama, the titular head of the party—kept Democratic voters from turning out in virtually unprecedented numbers.
If Democrats hope to dominate the political sphere ever again, they will first need to behave like their base expects Democratic politicians to behave, and then declare it loudly enough to their base to get them to turn out and vote.