President Barack Obama's stump speech at a Los Angeles fundraiser Wednesday night was one part self-celebratory victory lap, one part a nod to the anxiety of families whose wages have remained flat and one part pure partisan red meat.
Perhaps most striking was the president's acknowledgement that family incomes have remained stagnant on his watch, as he talked at length about "disquiet around the country" and frustration with a dysfunctional Washington.
"And for families, in particular, even with the recovery, they still have not seen an increase in wages, an increase in incomes. They’re still worried that they’re not going to be able to retire when they plan to retire. They worry about the prospects for their kids, whether they’re going to be able to live out their American Dream the same way that they did." Before talking anxiety and dysfunction, Obama talked up his legacy to about 90 people at a joint Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee/Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee event, with attendees including Barbra Streisand, James Brolin and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Guests paid from $10,000 to $32,400 to attend the event, held under a tent at Disney chairman Alan Horn's home in Bel Air, per the pool report.
You can expect to hear a lot more of this from now until November:
We were losing 800,000 jobs a month; we've now created 9.2 million jobs. The unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since 2007. The financial sector has obviously recovered. People have recovered the values of their pensions and 401(k)s that they had lost, so trillions of dollars of wealth restored. The housing market has rebounded. On the energy front, we have increased our production of wind energy threefold, solar energy by tenfold. We've actually reduced our carbon emissions faster than any other country in the world, even as we are also producing more energy generally, doubling our production of clean energy. Increased fuel efficiency standards on cars; saved an auto industry that was on the verge of collapse; provided health insurance to millions of Americans all across the country, including right here in California, and made the protections of those of us who already had insurance that much more sturdy. We've expanded access for young people to go to college — millions of young people are able to go to college that weren’t going before. We actually have the highest college enrollment rates in our history. We've reduced the dropout rate for Latino students; we've cut it in half since 2000.He also talked about "ending two wars" — although U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan.
We'll also note that the 9.2 million jobs that Obama takes credit for came after the economy shed millions of jobs in his first year in office. (Obama is on track for about 10 million net jobs in his second term and about 11 million total in his presidency). The total number of jobs in the economy won't likely hit their pre-recession high until next month — six years later — and the unemployment rate would be higher if millions of people hadn't left the work force.
With House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and DSCC Chairman Michael Bennet of Colorado among those in attendance, Obama also talked up the differences between the parties' views as the main reason for Washington's dysfunction — more so than Senate rules or campaign finance laws.
He criticized the GOP as opposed to pay equity, a minimum wage hike, infrastructure spending, scientific research and early childhood education. And he attacked them for denying climate change.
"We think climate change is real. Some of them say it’s a hoax, that we’re fabricating it," he noted.
Republicans' "willingness to say no to everything" has hurt Democrats because it has fed "cynicism and discouragement among the people who were counting on us to fight for them. ... And when they get discouraged, they don't vote."
"You’ve got a self-fulfilling prophesy — people who have the most at stake in a government that works opt out of the system; those who don't believe that government can do anything are empowered; gridlock reigns and we get this downward spiral of even more cynicism and more dysfunction," Obama said.
"And we have to break out of that cycle. And that's what this election is about."
Obama also mentioned immigration reform as an issue where Democrats have an advantage in public opinion and need to show it at the ballot box.
"There’s not an issue in which we do not possess a majority in this country," Obama asserted without caveats.
The key is figuring out how to get the party's voters excited to vote in a midterm.
Judging by ugly recent polls , Obama and the Democrats have their work cut out for them.