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“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6 percent, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder [President Obama] is so unpopular.”
In three short lines, Letterman encapsulated thoughts of Democrats around the country.
By many metrics, the country is better off than when Barack Obama took office. To Letterman’s metrics, I would add a resurgent American auto industry, millions more Americans with health insurance, extricating ourselves from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (albeit with an escalating military presence against ISIS), and expanding access to higher education and quality jobs.
And yet, on Election Day, Democrats across the country took a drubbing. Even in Virginia, once-invincible Mark Warner eked out only a narrow victory.
Many Democrats wonder how is it, given what is going right, that people could still be so dissatisfied?
The answer, I believe, is simple. People are not necessarily upset with any one metric, one issue, or even with the state of our country generally. They are upset with the dysfunction of our government, which has muted these successes. On Tuesday, people voted against the party in control of the White House and Senate — or in many cases, they didn’t vote at all.
In recent years, the tone of discourse in Washington has been toxic. There is rarely a day without reports about one party attacking the other. Mitch McConnell’s No. 1 legislative goal was to thwart President Obama’s political agenda. President Obama blamed Republican obstructionism for a lack of progress. The media exacerbates this problem by scorekeeping on who’s up and who’s down after each round of finger pointing. And the public is simply left to throw up its hands.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In 2008, voters turned out in record numbers for Barack Obama on the promise of a post-partisan Washington — where the parties could come together to hash out compromise on tough issues. Younger voters in particular responded to this positive message.
Yet six years later, little in Washington has changed. If anything, the tone is worse. The 2008 voters are therefore left to question why they should even participate in elections at all.
Political inaction on tough issues simply feeds this narrative. Indeed, all too often our government shirks tough decisions in the interest of perceived political expediency.
For example, on immigration reform, both Republicans and Democrats agree that our current system isn’t working, that immigrants have a role to play in our economy, that we would benefit from more security on our borders, and that the growing influx of immigrants on our southern border has created an unsustainable humanitarian crisis. Though there is disagreement about how these factors should be prioritized in an immigration “fix,” the seeds of compromise should exist.
Yet rather than undertake the tough negotiations needed to reach agreement, both sides were content to let the issue lapse and instead trade barbs over who was to blame. This is not governing, and it is not what we send our representatives to Washington to do.
Last Tuesday, voters took out their frustrations on Democrats. Now that Republicans control both the Senate and the House, I believe they will face the same voter backlash if they do not change their approach. Mitch McConnell’s statement immediately following that election that he wants to “work together [with President Obama] on issues where we can agree” is a good — albeit tepid — start, as was President Obama’s similar overture.
But to restore faith in our government and, in the process, faith in elections, we need fundamental change. That means tackling tough, potentially divisive issues even in the face of an impending election. It means tamping down the vitriol in our political rhetoric, even where our representatives strongly disagree with one another. And it means rejecting the “blame first, govern later” attitude that has all-too-often characterized our government in recent years.
Tuesday’s results prove that lower gas prices and lower unemployment are no longer enough to ensure electoral success. How we get to these results matters. Tuesday’s election was first and foremost a vote against dysfunction in our government. Our elected representatives would be wise to take this clear message to heart.
Mike Lieberman is the Immediate Past Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
Tour the secluded and quiet Bellevue Forest with its local parks, trails, forested areas and more in Neighborhood Spotlight.
In loving memory of William Dinwiddie Tucker, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 95.
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Meeting for lunch? Starting Monday, January 30 and running until Friday, February 3, Copperwood Tavern, The Pinemoor, and Brass Rabbit Pub will be offering buy one, get one free soups, salads, sandwiches, and…
St. Charles offers a play-based curriculum in a welcoming, Christ-centered environment.
Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.
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For more information or to schedule a tour, visit us at www.stcharlesarlington.org or call (703) 527-0608.
If you are a lifelong learner over 50+ who wants to make new friends, power up your brain, and enjoy a wide-variety college-level courses, Encore Learning is for you. An Arlington based nonprofit, Encore Learning offers courses in the arts, theater, literature, history, technology and more. This semester we offer our most popular course, Global Hot Spots as well as 25 new courses. Courses are presented either online or in-person at George Mason University at Virginia Square and other Arlington locations.
Join the free presentation to learn about courses and meet the instructors. This is Encore Learning’s signature event to highlight the upcoming semester with brief presentations by each instructor.
The Spring Course Preview event is Thursday, February 2nd at 9:30 AM via Zoom:
The truth, your first pregnancy and new mom months are full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and lots of questions! None of us really know the best way to do it – we just figure it out, together…