Stephen Reader covers politics for It's a Free Country, WNYC's interactive politics site. He joined the station in 2010 and has also worked for Studio 360, WNYC's Peabody Award-winning show about art, culture, and creativity.
Welcome to Politics Bites, where every day at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Democrat Anthony Weiner, Representative of New York's 9th Congressional district, and newly-elected Republican Nan Hayworth, Representative of the 19th Congressional district, discussed why Democrats struggled in the midterms.
Like many Democrats this morning, Anthony Weiner woke up dismayed. The midterm elections left the party mulling over what cost them the House of Representatives after they won a supermajority in Congress only two years before. Now, Weiner says he’s interested to see if and how Republicans—the party of "no" since 2009—are going to roll back recent legislation.
When you look at the things we did, providing health insurance for people, saving people tax money because we were spending so much for the uninsured, we gave one of the biggest middle class tax cuts in American history in the stimulus bill, prevented the layoffs of cops and firefighters...I’m just curious to see which ones the Republicans actually try to undo, because I think as individual initiatives, they were very popular.
One of the problems, Weiner said, was that the health care debate took too long, stifling Obama’s momentum and making it seem as though the most pressing issues, such as unemployment, were being put on the back burner. In the process, Democrats completely lost control of the message. This election cycle found the party frantically trying to tally their successes to an electorate that didn’t want to hear it. Weiner said the party, and the President, should take some responsibility for this failure.
The inescapable conclusion of these results is that voters rewarded a lot of people for voting no on every initiative, bragging that they were going to try to disassemble some of the things that were passed. I think the president has to get back to the place where he’s not just the leader of our country, but the leader of our philosophy of governing.
Republican Nan Hayworth is a Representative-elect who benefitted from the backlash. An ophthalmologist without experience in elected office, Hayworth unseated incumbent Democrat John Hall in New York's 19th District. Unlike Weiner, Hayworth was never comfortable with Obama shaping our "philosophy of governing." When asked what made her decide to get into politics, she quickly cited the Democrats' gains in 2008.
I was deeply concerned that there would be an effort to institute a philosophy of government that empowered the state way more than the Constitution intended.
Hayworth said that the Democrats' policies have done more harm than good with respect to getting the country back on track. Trying to resuscitate the economy and correct social disparities by raising taxes on the wealthy, she says, doesn't work.
We need to link worth with reward. We need to have incentive and motivation because that’s really what creates opportunity, and jobs, and dignity, and social justice.
She was especially critical of President Obama, using his own campaign language against him, as so many Republicans have done this year. She addressed him directly in the interview with Brian Lehrer.
This is change of a sort we didn’t want. We expected you to revive our economy. Clearly what this Congress has done and what, sir, you have done, what you’ve signed into law, has not benefitted us…What we see is that certain selected segments are receiving largesse, but the rest of us are paying dearly for it.
Listen to the full interviews on The Brian Lehrer Show.