The Obama administration is in a bit of a quandary.
On the one hand, it has found in the health-care legislation a paradigm of how to pass a bill that polls below 50 percent, authored by a Congress that polls below 30 percent and championed by a President that polls below 50 percent, without a single vote from the opposition: legislative gymnastics; picking up reluctant Democratic votes with promises of financial largess, executive orders, or personal perks; galvanizing a compliant media to champion the “success” and “momentum” of the president; and ridiculing as racist those who oppose the bill, comparing them to opponents of the landmark civil-rights bills of the 1960s.
In theory, energy and immigration bills could be cast in the same light and rammed through with the same procedure, perhaps even in the Senate. But on the other hand, it is hard to see the president’s polls improving enough to prevent an implosion in November. Even apparent legislative success brings no lasting political rewards, since the majority of voters will resist things like cap-and-trade and amnesty even more than they did health care. The more Obama advances out on the plank, the more his supporters applaud his progress, the more the frail board will start to bend, crack, and break.
The point when liberal Democrats most applaud his momentum and progress will probably be the same moment when things implode — sort of like the proverbial army that rushes headlong well beyond its base of support, emboldened by a sense of progress, unaware that each step forward is further isolating it and winning it a host of new vulnerabilities.