Published on TheHill.com on September 21, 2010
The MSNBC cameras unwittingly — and probably unwillingly — captured a Joe the Plumber moment during Monday’s town hall meeting called by President Obama to discuss the economy. Expressing the frustration of tens of millions of Americans on a day during which the economists called the recession over, Velma Hart, a self-described CFO, wife, mother and veteran, expressed her “deep disappointment” with Obama’s economic record — to his face.
“I’ve been told that I voted for a man who said he’s going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people, and I’m waiting, sir. … I’m waiting, but I don’t feel it yet.”
Calling herself “exhausted” by the rigors of the task of defending Obama, she lamented that she and her husband had thought the “franks and beans” era of their lives had drawn to a close but said she hears it “knocking” at the door. She finished with a heart-rending question to Obama, asking if anxiety is to be her “new reality.”
This cry of distress coming from an African-American supporter of Obama’s will echo in each of our hearts as the fall elections approach. When we were in the midst of a recession, even the Great Recession, we came to expect high unemployment, much like those in the tropics expect a storm during the rainy season. But we are like those who are experiencing daily rain in the dry season now that the recession is over and unemployment hovers around 10 percent. Is this, indeed, to be our “new reality”?
The Democrats are gleeful over the missteps of Christine O’Donnell. Too many leading Republicans do not realize all our fates in the midterm election are tied to her. If the Democrats can discredit her, they can discredit all of those like her and raise doubts about dozens of GOP candidates who would otherwise be victorious. If the grassroots Tea Party is foisting unqualified candidates upon us, and if our very own party leaders think this is true, what a weapon we are handing to the Democrats. Those Republican leaders who would criticize the O’Donnells of our party must realize that she is here to stay, she is one of us now, and she deserves all our support. Fortunately, the grass roots knows this fact and has showered her campaign with donations and support.
But the juxtaposing of the O’Donnell-witchcraft story and the Velma-the-CFO story on the same day speaks to a more profound point: As Democrats line up to savage the likes of Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle and Rand Paul, they fail to realize that this election is not about them. It is about us. It turns not on their biographies, but on our misery. We have watched one of the most activist presidents in history, blessed with the most compliant of Congresses, pass program after program, virtually without modification or even significant amendment, all the while assuring us that they would lead us out of recession and into recovery. Now that the recovery is supposedly upon us, we realize, to our dread, that it may be a future of permanent unemployment, just as they have in Europe.
This is the agony that impelled Velma the CFO to speak out. It is a deeply personal distress and speaks to each of our expectations for the rest of our lives. If the candidates who dabbled in witchcraft as children or who preach an overly strict personal morality are the ones who back cuts in government spending, a reduction in the deficit, no higher taxes, an end to government takeover of our healthcare system and no cuts in Medicare, then we will vote for them anyway.
Were the election more academic, were it waged on issues of less personal moment to each of us, it would be different. But who can ignore the witchcraft being practices, not by high-schoolers, but by legislators in Washington hoping to summon prosperity from the other side by spending us into oblivion and taxing us to death? That is the witchcraft that worries all of us.
And worries Velma the CFO.