Politics & Policy

Waiting for Obama

As the Democrats unveil their 2012 party platform, they will be for the first time officially endorsing same-sex marriage. We oppose the political redefinition of marriage, but we congratulate the Democrats on finally having the intellectual honesty to put in their platform what has long been in their desires. What were they waiting for?

They were waiting for Barack Obama. In that much, at least, the leaders of the Democratic party share something of the American experience of the past four years. As a candidate, Obama cynically attempted to split the difference between appeasing social liberals, who have a very large footprint in the Democratic party, and working to disguise himself as a moderate. He is in fact a garden-variety leftist of the sort familiar to anybody who has spent any time on a college campus, which is President Obama’s natural habitat. He is, after all, the One they were waiting for.

#ad#The rest of the country has been waiting on Obama, too, with a good deal less satisfaction, and the 2012 Democratic platform strongly suggests that if reelected, President Obama will continue playing precisely the role he has for the past four years: the major obstacle standing in the way of important fiscal and economic reforms, not only obstructing Republican initiatives but squelching the best ideas (such as they are) from his own party as well.

That same-sex marriage is the headline plank in the 2012 platform says something important about the Democrats: Even among those who support gay marriage — even among gay Americans — the redefinition of marriage is a relatively minor issue. Gays represent at the most 10 percent of the population, and, according to a new Harris poll, only 6 percent of gay voters identify gay marriage as their top issue. So the No. 1 priority for six out of a thousand Americans is where the 2012 Democratic party has chosen to distinguish itself from the 2008 Democratic party. The same Harris poll found that one out of four gay Americans intend to vote for Mitt Romney, and that the majority identify economic growth and jobs as their top issue. On this critical subject, the Democrats are clinging to what Marco Rubio piquantly described as “tired and old big-government ideas — ideas that people come to America to get away from.” It is appropriate that their convention is being chaired by outgoing Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose incompetent governance on the traditional liberal model has brought the nation’s second-largest city to the brink of fiscal ruin.

We are waiting on the media, too. Journalists gave close attention to the silence of the Republican platform on what exceptions an abortion ban should contain. Will they comment on the Democratic platform’s silence on the limits the abortion license should respect? Will they note its coded endorsement of taxpayer funding of abortion, and the extremism of that policy?

It is poetic that as the Democrats unveil their 2012 platform, their 2008–12 legacy will reach an important milestone: The official national debt will cross the $16 trillion mark. There are tens of trillions more in unfunded entitlement liabilities lurking off the official books, and the Democrats’ 2012 platform contains not one serious proposal for addressing these potentially catastrophic obligations. Again, we have been waiting on Obama: The Democrats on his own debt-and-deficit commission produced a promising if imperfect proposal for containing our national liabilities, one that might have provided the negotiating basis for an eventual bipartisan accord. Obama rejected it out of hand. Erskine Bowles, the senior Democrat on that commission, called Paul Ryan’s counterproposal “a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget.” President Obama calls it Social Darwinism. What have Democrats offered in its stead? Next to nothing, and certainly nothing new. Their main idea is raising taxes; but short of doubling all federal taxes — not just those on the upper-income, but every single federal tax on every single federal taxpayer — current spending levels will remain unsustainable. And given the economic consequences that such a doubling of taxes would entail, the Democrats’ touch-nothing-ever position remains untenable.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have to their credit been forthright about the fact that the American people face some unpleasant choices, with no easy way out of our current fiscal predicament. The Democratic platform earns no such credit. And our national credit is running out. 

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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