. . . if he just stays silent and undercover in Hawaii all year. It was always unlikely that an inherently dynamic nation like the U.S. could stay in a recession or a near-recession slowdown for five years (since late 2007), and we should expect a mild rebound in 2012, at least by election time — before the deeper reckoning with our massive debt and expansionary money policy comes due.
Based on the Chicago-style promises we’re now hearing — debt relief for students, mortgage relief for the underwater homeowner, pay increases for federal workers, non-enforcement of immigration law for the Latino bloc, and recess appointments for the unions and the left-wing base — in 2012 there will be a huge turnout of professional elites, environmentalists, gays, minorities, unions, youth, the indebted, and the needy, with which blocs the Democrats will seek to make up for the loss of the “clinger” states and somehow reach 51 percent of the vote. I guess that alienating the independents and Reagan Democrats, rather than winning them over, is the new fallback strategy, based on the premise they are lost anyway and what chafes them excites the base.
Obama had a Democratic Congress for two years, his populism is rendered suspect by his Wall Street fundraising and intimacy with the likes of Jon Corzine and Peter Orszag, and there have been scandals ranging from Solyndra to Fast and Furious — but I don’t think these will be real issues.
The message will probably be: “I, Obama, ended two wars, killed bin Laden, shifted money from the wealthy and defense waste to the middle classes, and would have done even more had an obstructive Congress not stopped me.” We should expect that, despite his obvious delight in public adulation, the president will be probably be less seen and heard. In December, his virtual absence from the public arena did wonders for his poll numbers, unlike his Kansas-type speechifying. The less people see and hear him, the more they think of the old image of Obama rather than the present reality.
The far louder Republicans will be cast in their traditional role — the Scrooges forcing necessary budget cuts on the backs of the recipients of Obama’s largess as they work to preserve “tax cuts for the wealthy” — in a pretty straightforward us-vs.-them pitch. There is not a lot for a low-profile Obama to run on, since most everything the old high-profile president has done — Obamacare, cash-for-clunkers, the stimulus, the GM/Volt mess, the Solyndra-like partnerships, the $5 trillion in borrowing, added regulations, and tabling gas and oil development — either is unpopular or hasn’t worked, often both. So Obama will run on the proposition that there were three Bush terms, from 2001 to 2011; that he, the middle-class warrior, will finally be able to free Americans from the damage done by Bush; and, of course, that things would have been even worse had he not put up the fight he did. Quietly borrowing more money is much more popular than loudly stopping it.
From the fractious Republicans, in between their attack ads on one another, we still haven’t heard of a simple four- or five-point agenda that rebuts the above, e.g., calls for massive new oil and gas development that will create jobs, new wealth, and greater energy independence; pruning back the size of government; repealing regulations and unleashing the private sector through budget discipline and a complete overhaul of the tax code; entitlement reform; and the preservation of defense.