On Tuesday September 8th Congress’ official summer recess will be over. By then the Kennedy dirge will have ended and it will be back to business as usual in Washington. The summer recess this year has been a riot of black comedy and farce as Congressional Democrats, caught in flagrante delicto trying to sneak a massive healthcare takeover past voters, were met with wrath and scorn back home in their districts. The death of Senator Edward Kennedy has provided some much needed distraction for these Democratic congressmen, many of whom have refused to meet publicly with voters during the recess.
The Fall political season serves up a number of interesting possibilities, not least of which is the question of whether the Democrats and the Obama administration will moderate their goals or double down. Given the wide gap between Congressional Democrats and generic polls (which show Republican advantages) it would appear that Democratic leaders would without hesitation moderate their goals. However, generic polls are inherently poor indicators of public opinion because voters routinely despise all congressmen except their own. For voters to get truly agitated and throw overboard one of their own requires a set of political circumstances and economic conditions that are literally extraordinary, such as 1980, 1994 and 2006. Even with the successes of the Tea Party protests and the town hall anger of the past six months, it is uncertain if voter sentiment is sufficiently radicalized to “throw the bums out”.
It appears that the tone deafness of Congressional leaders like Speaker Pelosi will continue unabated. Yet to be seen is the perfect storm of political events that would come together and bring about the demise of a politician like Pelosi, although the Charlie Rangel tax problems that continue to bleed out signal problems for not only the House Ways and Means Chairman but also Congress in general. Incidents like this can become a problem as the House Post Office/ Check Cashing scandal in the 1990’s demonstrated. One thing is certain: among the unemployed, among the cash strapped businesses and consumers, among the Cap and Trade threatened industries and among the elderly there is a growing anxiety. It is palpable and recognizable. This concern that permeates the electorate will also prove resistant to the viral hope and change that infected the judgment of the electorate in 2008.