“Increasingly, the Democratic Party feels the need to match the Republican right in stridency and hardball tactics. I am convinced that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose.” – Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope.
“Elections have consequences. And at the end of the day, I won.” – Barack Obama (discussing economic policy with Eric Cantor), January 23, 2009.
One of the things my liberal friends have trouble digesting is Barack Obama’s inability to sustain the “Hope and Change” ideology of the 2008 campaign during his Presidency. I would invite them to ponder those two quotes above the next time they try to figure it out.
Obama campaigned, beginning with his convention speech in 2004, as being a new, “post-partisan” politician. A politician who would put his party aside for the sake of compromise, a man whose principle ambition was “to get things done.” He won, by and large, because he convinced large numbers of people who had no prior electoral experience of that narrative. This was despite the fact that in his brief time as a sitting representative, he didn’t have one example of a compromise solution he had worked on. He did have one bipartisan bill he worked on with Sen. Tom Coburn – S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. But that particular piece of legislation passed the Senate 98-2, and Obama was one of 47 co-sponsors. It wasn’t a compromise, none was needed to pass. Coburn noted during the 2008 election, in discussing this one example of post-partisanship, that “It’s easy to work across the aisle on consensus items. It’s when you demonstrate that you’ll stand in between — in no man’s land between the two trenches of the Democratic and Republican base, and you’ll take the heat. We haven’t seen that from Barack. As much as I like him, he’s not ever rejected anything of his party to be able to stand in the middle.”
More than anything else, this is the reason Obama cannot mobilize the people who propelled him to victory in 2008. The carefully crafted image of a post-partisan politician was with one move after assuming office, destroyed forever. Obama, the man who convinced millions who distrusted politicians and the political system that he was somehow different, revealed himself to be as partisan as anyone who’s ever held elective office. He tried to recapture that theme after the 2010 midterms, but quickly reverted to being a partisan hack. The evolution has left those millions who were cynical about the political process before his candidacy even more cynical in the aftermath.
The genie is out of the bottle and it won’t go back in, just as those millions won’t be coming back to support the President this time around. This realization that Obama can’t reclaim the throne of preeminent post-partisan is well understood by Campaign Obama and they’ve gone to the only option the President’s words and actions have left them: divide and conquer. They’re praying they can mobilize enough of the left wing to win reelection. But to do that, they need to abandon all pretense of being anything other than the highly partisan; they need to attack and denigrate any position not in line with leftist theology.
That this type of campaign will accentuate the differences in the nation, polarizing us more than any time since the Civil War, is of little consequence. The only thing that matters is that Barack Obama wins – even if the nation loses.
President Obama’s “Son of Stimulus” (aka the American Jobs Act) is already dying the slow, tortuous death of a thousand paper cuts. And for good reason: the majority of Americans don’t buy the President’s latest smoke-and-mirrors plan. After all, stimulus was tried in 2009 and failed miserably. We were assured that spending nearly $800 billion in direct stimulus, plus billions more for “cash-for clunkers,” the automotive industry bailouts and banking industry bailouts would curb unemployment to 8% and have us under 7% by this point. More telling than the fact that was a terrible overshoot, is that nobody in the administration is willing to put any kind of number on how many jobs this latest round of stimulus would create. I doubt anyone in the White House actually believes this would really do much for the economy.
Americans intuitively understand that stimulus spending doesn’t really do much, except exacerbate the underlying cause of our economic malaise. Economists will tell you that the reason we’re in such a mess is because consumer demand – which fuels around 70% of total economic activity – is depressed. If only that were true.
The real cause for depressed sales is much more basic: people can no longer afford to buy consumer goods. They still want iPads®, flat-screen TV’s and new cell phones. But when they sit down with their bills each month, they aren’t willing to incur new debt to purchase them. After all, the debt frenzy that drove the last 20 years of economic growth met its inevitable end with the financial collapse of 2008. We’re still busy digging our way out from that mess and until the typical household reduces their debt burden, don’t expect them to begin spending again.
The same goes for government. The massive expansion of federal debt leaves Americans feeling equally queasy – after all, we just learned a valuable lesson about what happens when people and companies are over-leveraged. When public debt exceeds the total value of the economy and projected spending continues to go up, not down… Well, let’s just say we aren’t interested in finding out if an over-leveraged government can suffer the same fate as an over-leveraged household.