Politics & Policy

Obama Underappreciation Syndrome

Democrats can call their opponents paranoid, but that won’t save them in November.

In an increasingly desperate attempt to develop a narrative for the coming Democratic collapse, the Democrats have indulged themselves in what for half a century they’ve habitually attributed to the American Right: the paranoid style in American politics. The talk is of dark conspiracies — secret money, foreign influence, and big corporations, with Karl Rove and, yes, Ed Gillespie lurking ominously behind the scenes. The only thing missing is the Halliburton-Cheney angle.

But after trotting out some of these with a noticeable lack of success, President Obama has come up with something new, something less common, something more befitting his stature and intellect. He’s now offering a scientific, indeed neurological, explanation for his current political troubles. The electorate apparently is deranged by its anxieties and fears to the point where it can’t think straight. Part of the reason “facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time,” he explained to a Massachusetts audience, “is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.”

#ad#Opening a whole new branch of cognitive science — liberal psychology — Obama has discovered a new principle: The fearful brain is hard-wired to act befuddled, i.e., to vote Republican.

But of course. Here Obama has spent two years bestowing upon the peasantry the “New Foundation” of a more regulated and socially engineered, and therefore more humane, society, and they repay him with recalcitrance and outright opposition. Here he gave them Obamacare, the stimulus, financial regulation, and a shot at cap-and-trade — and the electorate remains not just unmoved but ungrateful.

Faced with this truly puzzling conundrum, Dr. Obama diagnoses a heretofore undiscovered psychological derangement: anxiety-induced Obama Underappreciation Syndrome, wherein an entire population is so addled by its economic anxieties as to be neurologically incapable of appreciating the “facts and science” undergirding Obamacare and the other blessings their president has bestowed upon them from on high.

I have a better explanation. Better because it adheres to the ultimate scientific principle, Occam’s Razor, by which the preferred explanation for any phenomenon is the one with the most economy and simplicity. And there is nothing simpler than the Gallup findings on the ideological inclinations of the American people. Conservative: 42 percent. Moderate: 35 percent. Liberal: 20 percent. No fanciful new syndromes or other elaborate fictions are required to understand that if you try to impose a liberal agenda on such a demonstrably center-right country — a country that is 80 percent non-liberal — you get a massive backlash.

Moreover, apart from ideology is empirical reality. Even as we speak, the social-democratic model Obama is openly and boldly trying to move America toward is unraveling in Europe. It’s not just the real prospect of financial collapse in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, with even the relatively more stable major countries in severe distress. It is the visible moral collapse of a system that, after two generations of increasing cradle-to-grave infantilization, turns millions of citizens into the streets of France in furious and often violent protest over what? Over raising the retirement age from 60 to 62!

Having seen this display of what can only be called decadence, Obama’s perfectly wired electorate says no, not us, not here. The peasants have seen the future — Greece and France — and concluded that it does not work. Hence their opposition to Obama’s proudly transformational New Foundation agenda. Their logic is impeccable: Only the most blinkered intellectual could be attempting to introduce social democracy to America precisely at a time when the world’s foremost exemplar of that model — Europe — is in chaotic meltdown.

And it isn’t as if this political message is new. It had already been sent in the last year with clarion clarity in the elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts where independents — swing voters without ideological attachment one way or the other — split two-to-one, two-to-one and three-to-one, respectively, against the Democrats.

The story of the last two years is as simple as it is dramatic. It is the epic story of an administration with a highly ideological agenda encountering a rising resistance from the American people over the major questions in dispute: the size and reach and power of government and, even more fundamentally, the nature of the American social contract.

An adjudication of the question will be rendered on November 2. For the day, the American peasantry will be presiding.

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010, The Washington Post Writers Group

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