A year ago, a number of “moderate” Republicans and Democratic stalwarts, in the gush of the inauguration, warned us of new Democratic majorities for years to come. A new race/class/gender dynamic would doom conservatives and their-old-white-guy party and its reactionary fellow-travelers. And, of course, the post-national, post-racial, post-modern president would hope and change his way to just about anything he wanted.
All of this was nonsense, but the narrative did mesmerize quite a lot of DC-NY pundits, who mistakenly fell for the Emanuel/Axelrod thesis that popular outrage at Wall Street banditry, weariness with Iraq, and the lackluster McCain campaign would translate into populist support for a kinder, gentler socialism.
And now? On every issue — more bailouts, more stimuli, more deficits, higher taxes, statist health care, cap and trade, diplomatic apologetics, the shunning of natural gas, oil, and nuclear in favor of “millions of green jobs” subsidized by billions in federal “stimulus” — the Obama position polls 5-15 points below 50 percent.
After Van Jones, Anita Dunn, the Skip Gates mess, the “tea-bagger” slurs, the attacks on Fox News, the Copenhagen dashes, the bowing, the apologizing, the reordering of creditors, the NEA obsequiousness, the lackluster overseas-contingency-operation front, the deer-in-the-headlights pause on Afghanistan, the pseudo-deadlines on Iran, Guantanamo, and health care, the transparency and bipartisanship fraud, and dozens of other things, Obama simply does not have the popularity to carry unpopular legislation forward. Indeed, he is reaching a point where he may poll more negatively than his agenda does. “Let me be perfectly clear” and “make no mistake about it” are now caricatures.
So where are we at twelve months? Obama showed the country his vision of where he wanted us to go; he had both houses of Congress, a toady media, and enormous personal popularity — and he is getting nowhere. Why? Because most Americans are vehemently opposed to taking their country in the direction that Obama, Pelosi, and Reid would prefer.
Since Obama is both inexperienced and apparently a stubborn ideologue, I think all we will be left with when the novelty wears off is rhetoric and euphemism. Obama will grow the deficit even larger and call it fiscal sobriety; he will push for higher taxes and suggest the entrepreneurial class is the same as the super-rich who “made out like bandits under Bush”; he will declare that his outreach to Chávez, Assad, Putin, and Ahmadinejad has been successful, even as those leaders incrementally and insidiously readjust their respective regional maps; he will borrow far more money than Bush did and copy his homeland-security protocols, while continuing to blame Bush for America’s problems — hoping that $2 trillion of annual borrowing, along with a recovering world economy and the resilience of U.S. business, will bring a half-hearted recovery by November 2010.
That’s about all you have, when you bet your holdings on European-style socialism and it proved a losing hand.