Confession: I did watch part of Meet the Press today, not because of Chuck Todd, but because I was raised to stop and pay attention when any President of the United States gets on television and talks, whether in an interview or a speech.
Here's the part that stood out for me. Chuck Todd asks, in a somewhat leading fashion, why anyone should care about the midterms since it means either a 2-seat majority for the Democrats or a 2-seat majority for Republicans.
Aside: Shouldn't all elections be of concern to citizens, regardless of their outcome? Shouldn't questions be framed to invite voters to the polls rather than discouraging them?
President Obama began to answer the question by pointing out the differences between the kinds of bills a Democratic Senate would introduce as opposed to one dominated by Republicans. The words "minimum wage" had hardly left his lips when Chuck interrupted him and asked whether a bill was on his desk addressing that.
Fortunately the president is much more patient than I am, because I would have lit into him at that point, but Obama was much more measured, saying "Equal pay for equal work. We care about that bill. Republicans, that's not their priority. We think it's important to make sure that issues like family leave and-- and family-friendly policies and-- and more effective childcare in place, so that-- so that folks are getting help, that-- young people are getting more assistance, when it comes to, paying for college educations, rebuilding our infrastructure, putting folks back to work on our roads, our bridges, all of which would boost our economy now and boost it into the future."
He then points out that he's unlikely to get those bills on his desk, but at least the debate is happening. Which is, of course, not enough. Debate is fine, but we need those bills on his desk too.
After some back and forth with Chuck, he brings home the point about midterms. Here it is, served with a large dollop of reality:
I think what it does is-- is to-- to send a message to Republicans that people want to get stuff done. Their-- their strategy of just obstructing and saying no to every piece of legislation that might help middle class families, that might create ladders of opportunity, that that is an agenda that the American people reject.
And that then gives us room, hopefully, to find some compromises. I've-- I've said this before, Chuck. You know, if you asked me back in August what I want for my birthday, I'd say, "Give me a loyal opposition that has some common sense and is willing to work on some basic issues that didn't used to be partisan issues."
It didn't use to be that building roads, bridges, improving our airports, improving our water systems, reducing traffic, those didn't used to be partisan issues. They have become partisan issues, because you've got a small portion of the Republican party that is fixated simply on dismantling government or making sure that we don't get anything done around here. And that's why elections matter. [Transcript - NBCNews.com]
That's exactly where we are. And by the way, that means not listening to pundits talking about polls or saying stupid things like Buzzfeed's John Stanton did later in the show when he said it this election might not matter much.
I think perhaps they should try asking people whether minimum wage or infrastructure or immigration reform matters to them, before pundits decide this election might not matter much.
I also think the President is being optimistic about Republicans bowing before the voice of the electorate if they fail to take the Senate back. I don't believe Republicans will suddenly have a "come to Jesus" moment and decide they should start working. But it's still the right thing to say, because the message is clear: Come out and vote in droves, Democrats. Because if you do, we can win this thing decisively.
If Democrats come out in November, they will win. That will be the second national election loss for Republicans going into the 2016 general election. Then Republicans will have a choice to make: Will they continue to lose, or will they try to win? Trying to win will mean stepping up and actually getting stuff done instead of wasting taxpayers' money on paychecks for slackers.