Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is This the End of the Obama Era?

It wasn't a lot of fun while it lasted. But yesterday spelled the beginning of the end of the Obama era in American politics. At least, we can hope so.

It took the American people exactly one year to discover that they had been tricked by a candidate who presented himself as one thing and governed as another.

Last night the people of Massachusetts drove a stake through the heart of the three-headed beast that was the Obama domestic agenda. The three heads of health care reform, cap and trade, and card check were a vampire sucking the jobs out of the American economy.

Scott Brown's victory also voiced a resounding No to Obama's pathetic attempts at foreign policy. True enough, we are more liked around the world. But we are also less respected. The people of the world are no longer convinced that America will defend its interests or those of its allies.

The election rejected Obama's habit of apologizing for America, his tendency to talk the country down, and his failure to embody American national pride.

And it voiced a resounding No to Obama's treatment of terrorists. Some said that Obama's reaction to the panty bomber started moving things in Brown's direction. Clearly, when Brown stated that we should be spending our money defeating terrorists instead of hiring lawyers for them resonated among the Massachusetts electorate.

The election rejected Obama's politics of personal arrogance. It asserted the value of democracy over Obamocracy.

Those who have been saying that the election humiliated the president and his party are correct.

Humiliation, via ridicule, can be used to demoralize opponents. It can be used to punish enemies. It is a direct assault on personal pride, but it can also be used to attack and diminish the false pride of arrogance.

As it happens Obama has a gift for ridicule himself. I imagine that he obtained it by channeling Jon Stewart. But his gift seemed to abandon him when he flew into Massachusetts last weekend to support Martha Coakley by ridiculing Scott Brown.

There Obama made jokes about Scott Brown's old truck. They weren't funny. But they did remind everyone of Obama's arrogance, elitism,and condescension. Why attack someone whose pickup has 200,000 miles on it....

Obama declared that anyone can buy a truck. Say what? Meaning what? The trope fell flat; there was no substance to it. Obama was winging it, but he didn't know that the wind was no longer with him.

Now, as Paul Begala said on CNN last night, it's a question of Obama's character. Begala said, correctly, that people show more character dealing with defeat than they do embracing victory.

But then, just as I was nodding in silent assent to his notion, Begala offered his prescription for good character. He declared that if Obama had character he would stand on principle, show what he believed in, and assert his ideas strongly and without hesitation.

Yikes. Begala seems to believe that strength of character lies in zealotry, in being a true believer, in ignoring the voice of the people.

Actually, Massachusetts voters were making an important point about character. Having character means keeping your word. When you say one thing and do another you show that you cannot be trusted. When you pretend to be one thing as a candidate and act like something else when you are elected, you are showing that you have no character. And when you talk down the nation you are leading, then clearly you have no character.

Obama's troubles with his health care initiative derive from the simple fact that he ignored the polls that insisted that the American people did not want it. He assumed that he could impose his will on a recalcitrant and ignorant people. And he imagined that they would eventually thank him for leading them out of the darkness and into the light.

Real character requires effective leadership, working with opponents as well as allies, to solve the real problems that are now bedeviling the country. Real character requires that we put the national interest over the party interest, and that we do what is best for the country, regardless of the effect on our own political fortunes.

Those who think like Begala want Obama to channel populist anger and redirect it against the banking industry. As though that would solve the problem of chronic unemployment!

Of course, the Obama agenda is more about the will-to-power of an over-educated elite than it is about solving problems.

Last night the people of Massachusetts let Obama know who is the real boss. It was an amazing we-the-people moment.

It is nice to opine about how this election will be a wake-up call like 1994. Unfortunately, a single election does not have that much in common with the electoral tsunami that swept the Democrats from power in 1994.

Sen. Scott Brown will surely stop the Obama agenda in its tracks. This is a good thing. And his election may well foreshadow a very bad time for the Democrats this November.

Still, it does not introduce a new political agenda or create a major political realignment. Nancy Pelosi is still Speaker of the House and Harry Reid is still in charge of the Senate.

Their wings have clearly been clipped, but neither they nor the president has an economic growth agenda. They will talk a lot about jobs, but beyond spending more money they do not seem to have a very clear idea about how to bring down the unemployment level.

Obama is not going to pull a Bill Clinton. The 1994 election radically transformed the political landscape. It brought in a new Congress with a new agenda called the Contract with America.

When Bill Clinton signed the bills that constituted the major part of the Republican agenda, he help produce a period of economic growth and prosperity. For the moment no such transformation looks possible this year.

If you have read this far in my post you definitely deserve a reward. The best I can do is to link an article that expresses the level of anger and disappointment that we saw in the polling booths of Massachusetts yesterday.

Its author is Mort Zuckerman, centrist Democrat and Obama supporter, Chairman of a company called Boston Properties, media mogul, and sensible commentator on the passing political and economic scene. So here is Zuckerman's article on Obama. It's title says it all: "He's Done Everything Wrong." Link here.


vanderleun said...

"Obama is not going to pull a Bill Clinton. "

It would be interesting to hear why that is so. My own belief is that he cannot do it due to internal anchors and limitations.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree. In other terms, we might say that he does not have it in him. Mostly for lack of experience. I believe that he is drawn to ideological solutions that derive from a worldview that is anchored in myth and narrative. These compensate for his deficient sense of reality, and the fact that his perspective was not formed out of trial and error.

Since he was never an executive he has not gone through an experience where he has tried a plan, seen it fail, and had to go back to the drawing board. It almost feels as though he is dealing with failure and disappointment for the first time in his life and this puts him off his game. The speech he delivered in Boston for Martha Coakley was simply off. For someone who is so glib and so adept at public speaking, it was though he could not adapt or adjust quickly enough to a reality that did not conform to his expectations or did not fit the narrative. This made him feel lost.
I cannot be sure but I also think that the deification of Obama has taught him that he cannot do wrong. If things go wrong, you cannot blame the god. And the god will certainly not blame himself. He and his followers will look for ways to protect his fragile sense of his own godliness by blaming others.

People loved Bill Clinton, but they did not attribute divine qualities to him. His flaws were far too evident to support such attributions.

Bill Clinton had also had many years of executive experience and had come up the hard way, dealing with failure, with adversity, and being forced to adjust. He was less doctrinaire than Obama and did not have to compensate for an absence of knowledge of the real world.

Clinton was certainly committed to the Democratic party, and he was certainly interested in maintaining his own position and authority. But, in working with the Republican majorities he was showing the greatest respect for the voice of the American people, as manifested in the 1994 election.
Obama seems to see his position as one where he can and must impose his will on others.
I hope that these thoughts clarify the issue.

johnh said...

Specifically, I believe you are alluding to aversion therapy.

Anonymous said...

Monica, writing from Paris : always a refreshing read, brilliant analysis (no pun - and no insult - intended) and right on - we don't want to go down the French road now, do we? Wake up and smell the café, Obama!!

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks for the comment, Monica...

Bruce Wayne said...

Why do they keep calling it an "OLD" truck?

The truck I have been driving every day for 16 years is a 1939 Ford pickup.
Thats old