News

    Obama Faces Some Unhappy Democrats

    U.S. President Barack Obama's domestic political challenges appear to grow more complicated each day.  In addition to facing virtually unanimous Republican opposition on issues like health-care reform, the president must now contend with a growing chorus of discontent on his political left, from liberals within his own Democratic Party. 

    The prospects for health-care reform took a major step forward this week when Democrats in the Senate mustered enough support to cut off debate, making it highly unlikely that Republicans will be able to block a bill supported by President Obama.

    In trying to get health-care reform through Congress, Mr. Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have been forced to make a series of compromises in hopes of overcoming unified Republican opposition.

    But for some of the Democratic Party's leading liberal voices, the president's willingness to compromise has gone too far.

    Former party chairman and onetime presidential contender Howard Dean is among those unhappy with the concessions from liberal Democrats on the health care bill.

    "This is not health care reform," said Howard Dean. "It is not close to health care reform."

    For months now, Mr. Obama has been trying to hold together a fragile Democratic coalition in Congress to pass his number-one domestic priority-reforming the nation's health-care system.

    "We simply cannot allow differences over individual elements of this plan to prevent us from meeting our responsibility to solve a long-standing and urgent problem for the American people," said President Obama.

    But the liberal discontent is not limited to compromises over health care.  It also involves strong doubts about the wisdom of the president's decision to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

    The Democratic Speaker of the House, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, recently said that the president would have to make his case to fellow Democrats to win funding for the troop increase. 

    That skepticism is reflected among Democrats nationally in public-opinion polls, says Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown.

    "But it is clearly true that among self-identified Democrats, a sizable majority do not want an increase in troops in Afghanistan and are much wary of our future involvement than are independents and Republicans," said Peter Brown.

    Several recent opinion polls suggest political warning signs for the White House.  Mr. Obama's approval rating, which was very strong when he first came to the presidency, now hovers around or just below 50 percent in some polls.

    In addition, a recent Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey found that more people now believe it is better to pass no health-care plan than approve the one now before the Senate. 

    Some of Mr. Obama's core supporters who fervently believed his promise of change in last year's presidential campaign are now questioning his commitment to follow through on those campaign pledges.

    Robert Borosage is with a liberal activist group called the Campaign For America's Future.

    "He did not do what I would have done, which is really led the charge and forced Democrats to unify and then forced Republicans to face whether they simply wanted to be looked at as the party of 'no'", said Robert Borosage.

    The declining popularity of the president's health-care proposal presents a difficult political challenge for Democrats as they prepare for the 2010 midterm congressional elections.

    Stuart Rothenberg is publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report and a frequent guest on VOA's 'Encounter' program.

    "Do they run away from the president?  Do they demonstrate their independence?  Do they vote against Democratic initiatives on Capitol Hill?  Or, do they say, as some Democrats are saying, look, we cannot win elections by weakening our own president.  We have got to support President Obama," said Stuart Rothenberg. "We have got to vote with him.  That will strengthen him and make him look like a stronger leader.  If he looks weaker, we as a party will be weaker.  So Democrats have to figure out how to deal with this."

    Republicans have rallied against the president's health-care plan as too costly and too much government interference in the private economy.

    Many political experts now expect Republicans to gain seats in next year's congressional elections, in part because conservatives have been re-energized by their opposition to Mr. Obama's domestic policies.

    Robert Borosage says Democrats face a major challenge next year in trying to rally their core supporters.

    "We know the Republican right is energized," he said. "They want to come out and vote, but they are a very small percentage of the population.  The question is whether Democrats are going to be energized, and this is unclear at this point."

    Republicans also appear to have history on their side as they plan to make gains in Congress next year.  In the 15 congressional midterm elections since 1948, the president's party has lost House seats 13 times. 
     


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.