During his fundraising trip to Los Angeles Wednesday, President Obama discovered anew that the United States is in bad shape, and he was again left in puzzlement about what could be the cause.
“You get a self-fulfilling prophecy,” the president told supporters, urging them to help Democrats avoid potentially significant losses in both houses of Congress in the November midterm elections. “The people who have the most at stake in a government that works opt out of the system. People who believe government doesn’t work are most empowered. Gridlock reigns and we get the downward spiral of even more cynicism.”
Speaking to a group of millionaires during a $10,000-to-$34,000-a-plate dinner at the Bel Air home of Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, Obama explained that the Democrats’ problem is that they’re just too committed to the poor.
“The congenital problem that Democrats have is in midterms especially we don’t vote,” Obama told donors including living legend Barbra Streisand and Dreamworks SKG co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. “Our voters are younger, they’re more likely to be minority, and because they’re more likely to be struggling they’re not always paying attention when the president is not – the presidential candidate isn’t on the ballot.”
During his L.A. sojourn, Obama, whose achievements include stopping the rise of the oceans and healing the planet, also received an “Ambassador for Humanity” award from Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. (“President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt,” the powerhouse filmmaker said.) And his second-term fundraising has outpaced that of most or all previous two-term presidents.
Still, Obama is stumped as to whose mismanagement of national affairs has left the country in such a state of “disquiet” and “frustration.” In addition to speculating about his party’s “congenital” problems, the president has attributed his party’s fading hopes in 2014 to Republican obstructionism and theorized that Democrats usually “get clobbered” in midterm races.
Even more baffling about the Democratic stagnation is that Obama has boldly avoided the cautionary example set by Bill Clinton following the Democrats’ steep losses in the 1994 midterms. Clinton responded by changing course pursuing policies of welfare reform and reduced spending that contributed to an economic boom and the elimination of the deficit by the time he left office. Clinton won re-election in 1996 and defied both expectations and historic precedent by leading the Democrats to pick up congressional seats in the 1998 midterms.
By contrast, Obama has stuck to his principles, betting that “getting people talking” about Obamacare, using his “pen and phone” to bypass Congress, and appearing on web shows with Zach Galifianakis will win over voters. Yet the stiff-necked electorate has failed to turn its frown upside down.
The president remains optimistic that, come November, voters will show their dissatisfaction with Democrats by electing more Democrats.
“I’ve got to make sure we have a Democratic Senate, and I want a Democratic House of Representatives in Washington,” Obama told the audience, which also included Streisand husband James Brolin, who played Pee Wee Herman in Warner Bros.’ big-screen biopic. “My main message to you is feel a sense of urgency about this election.”
With a freer legislative hand after November, Obama may finally be able to persuade Americans that they’re better off than they were six years ago.