I took my two teenagers to see the musical 1776 last weekend. While I had seen this show many years ago, watching it this time struck a whole new chord with me. As it opens up with the Second Continental Congress in session with President John Hancock presiding, the first point made very clear is that decision making doesn’t come easily to this group of men. Bickering, discourse and stubbornness prevail; some are motivated by doing things for the greater good, and others motivated by doing things that will drive personal prosperity … there really seemed to be little difference between today’s Congress and the initial Congress that guided the birth of America 234 years ago – at least on a macro level.
John Adams was not a popular man – but without him, July 4th would have never happened. Starting with a divided split among the Congress (half voting for the Declaration, the other half not understanding why we would ever want to be divided from the great country of Britain), Adams, Franklin and ultimately Jefferson were the leaders that guided the very painful process of getting to a signed Declaration of Independence. The curtains dropped, with an illuminated stage sized Declaration in view, and I was touched at witnessing all the work and effort that went into giving birth to our great nation. As I was driving out of the parking lot, I turned to the kids and said “did that give you the chills at the end?” They both looked at me like I was crazy and replied no.
That brings me to the present and the climate before the mid-term elections. Witnessing what is going on in the political world, you either want to explode, or just sit down and laugh in disbelief. Divisive is almost too nice a word to describe it – it’s downright domestic warfare. Sometimes I wish we could blow up the political ideologies associated with the Democratic, Republican, and Tea Parties, and discuss the common goals for the country – as one. Aren’t we all in this together?
I do feel sorry for Obama. He inherited quite a mess, and we can all argue ‘til the cows come home about whether his policies and actions have been the right ones or the wrong ones. He still has a 91% approval rating among African Americans, but across the rest of America, he’s languishing in the mid forties. This of course spells trouble during the mid term elections, where historically, a President who has under 50% approval at mid-terms looses on average 36 seats. The Republicans would need to take 40 seats to gain majority. We are a country of discontent – and I really think at this present time, any President, whether Democrat or Republican would be struggling.
For all the public lashings that Obama is receiving, I do feel a little better when I look back at history. First, the President’s party almost always looses seats in the mid term elections, regardless of how he is rated by the public. And there are some pretty heavy hitters that have had low approval ratings at mid term, and in fact lower than where Obama’s rating stands today. Reagan’s first term mid-term approval rating was only 42%; Clinton’s first term mid-term approval rating was 45%; and George W. Bush’s second term mid-term approval was 38% (the lowest ever mid-term approval rating, followed by Truman at 40% in 1950).
I guess only time will tell. Maybe Christine O’Donnell truly is the magic bullet. Witchcraft may be the only way to accomplish anything in politics moving forward.