Thursday, May 29, 2014

India’s Revolution

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi
The sweeping election victory of Narendra Modi and his BJP party and the crushing defeat of the India’s National Congress Party heralds a political revolution in India and has a message for the U.S.

Modi, a charismatic figure, focused on the aspirations of hundreds of millions of Indians, especially young voters, and offered to create a new economic opportunity in what has appeared to be a nearly ungovernable country, certainly beyond the ability of the Congress Party. The economy, corruption, infrastructure and mostly getting the basics right was the party’s message.

This November, U.S. voters will offer a judgment on their government, and Democrats are nervous that a tsunami of dissatisfaction could sweep them from power. The national Democratic Party will likely lose seats in Congress, not gain the 17 needed to restore Nancy Pelosi to the Speakership (will she join Mr. Waxman and Mr. Miller in retirement?) and it could well lose control of the U.S. Senate.

Five reasons stand out as causing the Democratic Party’s woes:

Weak Economy – Not only is the economy still weak, but the distribution of new wealth is grossly uneven. Most of the population has seen some recovery from the great recession, but they are behind where they were, with no sense of optimism that things will fundamentally improve. Barely a quarter of the population either trusts the government or believes the country is going in the right direction.

Incompetence – President Obama’s poor approval rating reflects a growing sense that he and the administration are in over their heads. Implementation of the ACA was a national embarrassment and had a Katrina-like effect on his reputation. The Ukrainian and VA crises reinforce the image of a disengaged administration drifting from crisis to crisis.

Gridlock – Last October’s government shutdown just highlighted an endless cycle of fiscal and government crises that has engulfed Washington since 2009. Partisan polarization, combined with checks and balances, has destroyed confidence in Washington D.C. Incumbency today is a burden, not a benefit for a candidate.

Tired Leadership – President Obama appears to be a very old president in a young body. Most of his speeches are now related to laments about the lack of power and metaphors for inaction.

Lack of Vision – Democrats and Republicans mostly argue about more or less of what we already have; that is, what we already have too much of, an expensive, ineffective government. Democrats, in particular, appear committed to more spending, regulation and government.

The only reason the next U.S. elections are unlikely to see the massive change that just occurred in India is the rigidity of our election system and the fact that both parties share in the blame and the Republicans have offered, as yet, ill-defined alternatives.

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