There are, believe it or not, good politicians.
– Daniel Keys Moran
By Ken Feltman
This is one of those times when fewer and fewer Americans believe that good politicians exist. Doubters always speak out but they are usually balanced by people who voice more positive or at least conciliatory terms. Not now. People are fed up. We may be seeing the birth of the militant moderates.
Take a look at I Said and see what people are saying about the current debt ceiling crisis. Here are some samples of what people who call themselves independent voters, from around the country, think about Washington politicians:
+We have a group of insiders in Washington who need to be put out like the cat at night. (A woman in Nevada)
+Don’t they understand we’re broke? Stop spending like we still have money. We don’t. (A woman in Texas)
+Who believes that Obama and those Congressmen know what they’re doing? Who does, really now? (A man in South Carolina)
+Total incompetence. No country can be taken seriously when we look like clowns. (A man in New Jersey)
+Let’s spend more on America’s future and less on overpaid bureaucrats and people who whine that they need more welfare. (A woman in Michigan)
+They probably have no idea how stupid they make the whole country look. (Another woman in Nevada)
+I don’t think President Obama has been at all helpful. He’s campaigning. That’s about all he’s good for. (A woman in Pennsylvania)
+Reid is sanctimonious and sneaky. The House guy is a complete wipeout. And we expect them to fix things? (Another man in Iowa)
+No matter what they say in Washington, we all know they won’t decide. We out here are going to have to make the tough choices that they won’t make. We have to. There’s no money. (A man in Kansas)
+They’re just pigs who want to spend our money. That’s the fun part for them. Cutting stuff out isn’t fun so they won’t do it. (A third man in Iowa)
+I can’t believe it. They just point fingers. I’d like to stick my finger in their eye. (A woman in Florida)
+We thought we got rid of that liberal woman and we got this goof with the name I don’t remember, from Ohio. He’s a zero. (A man in Michigan)
+I’m not sure but I think my son’s goldfish could do just as well. (A man in Nevada)
+I think it’s Obama who’s got to go. He’s the man at the top and this ain’t working. (A woman in Missouri)
+I say don’t vote for anybody but new people. I could do as good a job as Obama or Pelosi or any of them. (Another woman in Pennsylvania)
+You know we could do better than Obama and that Congress. Why do we need them at all? (A man in Pennsylvania)
+What is this Boehner guy doing? He keeps pulling stuff back. (Another man in Pennsylvania)
+The Chinese are loving this. (A man in Florida)
These comments were made by swing voters during focus groups this week. They may not reflect the national mood. Many Americans have only a dim awareness of the debt ceiling debate in Washington. Others have tuned out politics and politicians. Beside that, people who volunteer for focus groups tend to bone up on current issues. They also tend to be more assertive and willing to state their opinions. They participate in civic affairs. They are the centrist voters who swing elections.
Analysis of the comments yields three conclusions:
1. These moderates understand that the country needs to cut back on spending. In fact, many express surprise that President Obama and most Democrats do not seem to share their sense of urgency. They are disenchanted with Democrats, Republicans, the tea parties and the president.
2. They believe that Washington cannot or will not solve the problem. The most common solution offered is to get new people in office. Their view of the tea party has changed. They see the tea party as rigid, even reckless.
3. These independent voters conclude that Obama is ineffective and has become part of the problem. Many have come to that conclusion reluctantly. But they have come to it.
A Texan put it this way: “There’s no float to it. Obama’s goodwill has sunk to the bottom.”
More than anger, these voters express sadness when assessing the Obama presidency. They see it as a failure that will end with next year’s election – unless the Republicans manage once again to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.
In short, these people think the Democrats do not get it. They think the Republicans are in over their heads. They seem to be ready to blame the tea party for the debt ceiling fiasco.
More active in community affairs than most people, these centrists see a long road ahead to economic recovery. They resent the partisanship and political posturing of their elected officials. They believed they sent a strong message last November. Most are ready to vote additional politicians out of office, hoping that the replacements will get the message.
A growing number of these increasingly militant moderates are talking about changing the system to prevent Washington from getting out of hand again. Some are considering seeking office themselves because they believe that may be the only way they can make a difference.
These are somber people, frustrated with their own inability to put capable people into office. Reading through the thousands of comments leads to another conclusion: These are people who intend to do more than complain. Perhaps, finally, the center of the country is going to do more than swing elections.
Perhaps the moderates will become as aggressive and assertive as the followers of the tea parties and the fringes of the two parties. What might that mean? Watch for a battle over a balanced budget amendment.