Rev. Al Sharpton's Weekly Blog

Rev on Anti-Incumbent Sentiment

May 18, 2010

It seems as if every time we turn on our television sets and tune in to the day’s news, we are almost immediately inundated with numbers and percentages from various polls. Many often utilize these polls for their own political advantage, while others are accused of steering the public’s views with the use of polling data. But if we are to take the stats at face value, we can easily see one undeniable theme: the country is ready for change yet again. On the cusp of the Senate primary elections, we can easily observe a strong anti-incumbent fervor across the board. And despite what many pundits and politicians may suggest, this is not an anti-Democratic feeling, but rather a desire for fresh new blood in Washington. For those who cannot comprehend the difference between the two, just take a look at the facts – they don’t lie.

On Saturday, the Associated Press-GfK released its latest findings, indicating that a majority of those polled would like Democrats to control Congress (45% compared to 40% for Republicans). Currently, Democrats hold a 254-177 majority over Republicans in the House and control 59 of the 100 Senate seats. Despite the fervent anti-incumbent feelings across the nation, a majority of the electorate would still prefer to have Democrats controlling Congress and at the same time, President Obama’s personal ratings remain as high as they were when he first stepped in to the White House. During a period when groups like the Tea Party are chanting messages of ‘taking their country back’, how can this possibly be? As many challenges continue to face the nation, why would people opt for Democrats despite their yearning for change? And after being bombarded with vitriol from the extreme right, how have moderates and liberals maintained their ability to appeal to mainstream voters? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that this President, his administration and Congress have managed to achieve more than anyone ever imagined.
When President Obama was sworn in last year, our country was at an extremely pivotal and volatile moment. Faced with two wars, an economic crisis of catastrophic proportions and looming record-breaking national debt, the President energetically took the helm and faced our tumultuous dilemmas head on. In February of ‘09, he signed into law a $787 billion stimulus package into law which effectively forestalled a worldwide economic depression and directly resulted in the employment of some 600,000 to 1.6 million people in this country (according to the Congressional Budget Office). President Obama nominated the first Hispanic judge to the U.S. Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, and signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which expanded the rights of workers to sue employers over wage discrimination.
President Obama signed legislation expanding the SCHIP program to expand health insurance to 4 million lower-income children, and in March of ‘09 he passed the most sweeping change to credit card practices in 40 years. Our 44th President and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton increased dialogue with nations around the globe, and altered the image of the United States after the devastating blow of the Bush administration. President Obama ended the previous policy of awarding no-bid contracts, and he has steadily worked to ensure the safety and security of the nation. But perhaps the most unprecedented legislation that this President managed to pass with the backing of his Democratic members was the passage of comprehensive health care reform.
As voters prepare to head to the polls this Tuesday in key Senate primary races, they will collectively voice their sentiments on the state of our political and social climate. And while many argue that the results of this election will serve as an indication of what’s to come in November, let us keep in mind that the mood is not anti-Democratic, but rather anti-incumbent – and there is a strong difference between the two. As Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is learning, the greatest challenge may in fact be a candidate from within his own Party. And as Bob Bennett recently realized in Utah, longevity doesn’t guarantee permanence.
The polling is indeed out there; people are ready for change again. On the heels of Tuesday’s election, and a few months out before the mid-terms, let’s see what transpires. Change is welcome – often desired. But as we’ve already witnessed, President Obama and the Democrats have delivered more than anyone would have imagined and the people are ready to keep progressing, not regressing.