Less than 24 hours after he lost the golden mantle, President Obama went before an expectant nation with a White House press conference. He and his party had received an historic slap-down. The people had spoken directly and plainly.
For the first two-thirds of the presser, the president spoke in Washington-speak. It was nuanced and hit notes that his aides would nod at approvingly. He was humbled and willing to reach out to the other side. If you were a Washington insider and you had a decoder ring, you could nod appreciatively that you understood the message.
But as a political acknowledgement to an angry public, it has to be chalked up as another loss. In the language of the American people, it was not straight talk. It was babble, presented in cold language that only Professor Obama could deliver.
He said he had heard the American people’s “frustration” over the economy. It had all the feel of the condescending way you talk to children. But this is the Obama way. He lectures at you. He talks down to the public. He doesn’t realize that the public “gets it.” The question is, when will he?
Only near the end of the press conference, when a few White House reporters pressed him to respond to them in personal terms, did Professor Obama exude any self-reflection. At first he was clumsy, saying he felt “bad” about the results. But when speaking about the backroom deals on health care, he ran away from this moment of self-criticism. He mused that while the health care process was “messy,” he thought the health care outcome was a good one.
The performance was one that demonstrated that both he and his inner circle still have yet to process the political debacle he inflicted on himself with his own hands.
Earlier today, I went to a major gathering of conservative organizations to understand the political carnage wrecked by the electorate. It is nothing short of Defcon 5 level of devastation. And its effects are likely to be felt for at least a decade, if not beyond.
In January, close to 90 new freshmen Republicans will be sworn into office. Many of these men and women ran and won on the Tea Party’s program of small government, lower taxes, and fiscal sanity. Many are articulate new members who will be passionate about their beliefs. Yes, they actually believe this stuff. They were not merely speechifying. For their health, the Republican leadership will probably have to listen to the newbies. Their allies in the Tea Party have also made it crystal clear they expect a new and reformed Republican Party.
Second, the Tea Party helped many of these freshmen get elected with a ground game that would impress any Democratic Party “get out the vote” veteran. While the Tea Party may be young and restless, they are not dopes. Last night at the Tea Party Patriots election campaign party, one activist after another gave me a spiel about their boring phone calls, mail drops, door-to-door canvassing, email campaigns, and flyers.
In Florida, for example, state coordinator Everett Wilkinson regaled me about the 85 different Tea Party organizations that worked to get out the vote. They made “at least” 300,000 phone calls to Florida voters last weekend. Marco Rubio and the entire Florida down ticket won because of their shoe leather.
But there’s more I learned today. At the state level, more than 600 new Republican state legislators were elected last night. The Republicans captured both the upper and lower chambers in 12 states that had previously been in Democratic hands.
This is no small potatoes. The Republicans captured both of North Carolina’s houses for the first time in 135 years. In Alabama, they won both houses for the first time since Reconstruction.
This means that when each state tries to figure out the new funny lines of each U.S. congressional district based on the new census, the Republicans for the first time in a very long time will have a commanding lead. The Republicans will have the ability to re-draw congressional districts away from the squiggly lines that Democrats used to carve out to include friendly minorities and liberals.
And there is more. According to a variety of pollsters, those who identify themselves as conservative dramatically grew over the last two years. Since 1980, only about one-third of American voters self-identified themselves as conservative. In this election? A whopping 46%. Only 18% told pollsters they were liberal.
Exit polling showed that young voters aged 18-29 stayed home, dropping from 18% in 2008 to 9%. So the president’s campus speeches didn’t resonate, especially for those who are either out of work or fear they may soon be out of work.
Hispanics also stayed home, even though Democrats have pandered to them. Guess the immigration issue didn’t move this population group which Democrats crave.
The African American population may still adore Obama, but about a third of them who voted in 2008 stayed home this year.
Finally, 52% of all those polled said they would not vote for Obama again.
All of this portends short and long term trouble for the Democrats. And it does not assure instant success for the Republicans. But as long as the president mimics insider Washington-speak and does not alter his core policy positions, it could be a Motel 6 moment at the White House two years from now. Just be sure the last one turns out the lights.