The Corner

Re: Obama’s Unpopularity

Dan: Excellent points. One thing I’d emphasize more, though, is the FDR example (admittedly this is something of a hobbyhorse of mine, but I’m hardly alone). When Obama came into office, liberals were falling all over themselves insisting that this was the dawn of a new New Deal. According to Klein himself, the promise of Obama was to change the very structural elements of our politics he’s now complaining about. And, as Klein noted, Obama saw himself in that context.

Well, if that is the measure of Obama, then Obama has failed on his own terms. For good or ill (I vote ill!) the American people were open to FDR’s effort to change the structure of American politics. That’s why FDR’s party gained seats in 1933 and 1934. Today, Americans don’t want what Obama is selling. If you want to blame the structure of American politics, that’s fine, I guess. But that doesn’t change the fact that liberals were wrong about the moment and the public’s appetite for more FDR-style liberalism.

One possible irony is that, as Megan McArdle has argued, 2008 may not have been 1932, it may have been 1929. In which case, Obama is Hoover. Now, I am one of those libertarian-infected conservatives who argues that Hoover wasn’t the free-market guy the Left has always said he was. But without even wading into all of that, the analogy must be dismaying to liberals. Because, fair or not, Hoover discredited free-market economics for a generation (or at least he was perceived to have done so). It would be a biting irony if Obama did the same thing to his statist brand of economics.

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