Counterculture Con HQ

January 20, 2010

Democrats Teabagged: GOP Takes Kennedy’s Seat

That popping sound you just heard?  Keith Olbermann’s head exploding.  There’s been a major disturbance in the Force, folks.  The mediclorian count is off the charts after Republican Scott Brown defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election for Teddy Kennedy’s seat. This wasn’t supposed to happen.  A year ago the election of Barack Obama and Democrat victories in Congress were being touted as a major realignment of the country along Democratic Party lines that would last a generation.  The GOP, it was said, would relegate itself to the status of “regional party” if it didn’t get with the program and start supporting the Obama game plan.  It’s been barely a year since that post-election hubris, but oh how times have changed.  Now this “regional party” has done the unthinkable.  The GOP has won “Kennedy’s seat” in Massachusetts, a state that is the bluest of the blue.  Now the blame game begins amongst the Democrats–with Martha Coakley blaming Barack Obama, and vice versa.  That “civil war” the GOP is engaged in?  You haven’t seen nothin yet.  Liberal Democrats vs Blue Dogs.  And watch for the spin as they try to minimize the impact this election could have on the future of Obamacare–on which some are calling the Massachussetts election a referendum.   These wounds will be entirely self-inflicted.  Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves because they did exactly what they promised they wouldn’t do when they won in ’08– they overreached by trying to socialize the healthcare system, which is one sixth of the American economy.  And in their vow to rescue us from the impending Depression, the Democrats touted Barack Obama as the next FDR.  As if that’s who pulled us out of the Great Depression.  Newsweek proclaimed jubilantly, “We are all socialists now!”  But the country doesn’t want an FDR, it wants a Ronald Reagan.  And the American middle class is not socialist.  Because even as the country is sliding to the Left in terms of culture and moral values, economically speaking, America is still Reagan country.

ONE YEAR OUT: AFTER THE FALL

What went wrong? A year ago, he was king of the world.

Now President Obama’s approval rating, according to CBS, has dropped to 46 percent—and his disapproval rating is the highest ever recorded by Gallup at the beginning of an elected president’s second year.  A year ago, he was leader of a liberal ascendancy that would last 40 years (James Carville). A year ago, conservatism was dead (Sam Tanenhaus).

Now the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in bluest-of-blue Massachusetts is surprisingly close, with a virtually unknown state senator bursting on the scene by turning the election into a mini-referendum on Obama and his agenda, most particularly health-care reform.

A year ago, Obama was the most charismatic politician on earth. Today the thrill is gone, the doubts growing—even among erstwhile believers.  Liberals try to attribute Obama’s political decline to matters of style. He’s too cool, detached, uninvolved. He’s not tough, angry, or aggressive enough with opponents. He’s contracted out too much of his agenda to Congress.  These stylistic and tactical complaints may be true, but they miss the major point: The reason for today’s vast discontent, presaged by spontaneous national tea-party opposition, is not that Obama is too cool or compliant but that he’s too Left.

It’s not about style; it’s about substance—about which Obama has been admirably candid. This out-of-nowhere, least-known of presidents dropped the veil most dramatically in the single most important political event of 2009, his Feb. 24 first address to Congress. With remarkable political honesty and courage, Obama unveiled the most radical (in American terms) ideological agenda since the New Deal: the fundamental restructuring of three pillars of American society—health care, education, and energy.

Then began the descent—when, more amazingly still, Obama devoted himself to turning these statist visions into legislative reality. First energy, with cap-and-trade, an unprecedented federal intrusion into American industry and commerce. It got through the House, with its Democratic majority and Supreme Soviet–style  rules. But it will never get out of the Senate.  Then, the keystone: a health-care revolution in which the federal government will regulate, in crushing detail, one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

By essentially abolishing medical underwriting (actuarially based risk assessment) and replacing it with government fiat, Obamacare turns the health-insurance companies into utilities, their every significant move dictated by government regulators. The public option was a sideshow. As many on the right have long been arguing, and as the more astute on the left (such as the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki) understand, Obamacare is government health care by proxy, single-payer through a facade of nominally “private” insurers.

At first, health-care reform was sustained politically by Obama’s own popularity. But then gravity took hold, and Obamacare’s profound unpopularity dragged him down with it. After 29 speeches and a fortune in squandered political capital, it still will not sell. The health-care drive is the most important reason Obama has sunk to 46 percent. But this reflects something larger. In the end, what matters is not the persona but the agenda. In a country where politics is fought between the 40-yard lines, Obama has insisted on pushing hard for the 30.

And the American people—disorganized and unled but nonetheless agitated and mobilized—have put up a stout defense somewhere just left of midfield.  Ideas matter. Legislative proposals matter. Slick campaigns and dazzling speeches can work for a while, but the magic always wears off. It’s inherently risky for any charismatic politician to legislate. To act is to choose, and to choose is to disappoint the expectations of many who had poured their hopes into the empty vessel—of which candidate Obama was the greatest representative in recent American political history.

Obama did not just act, however. He acted ideologically. To his credit, Obama didn’t just come to Washington to be someone. Like Reagan, he came to Washington to do something—to introduce a powerful social-democratic stream into America’s deeply and historically individualist polity.  Perhaps Obama thought he’d been sent to the White House to do just that. If so, he vastly over-read his mandate. His own electoral success—twinned with handy victories and large majorities in both houses of Congress—was a referendum on his predecessor’s governance and the post-Lehman financial collapse. It was not an endorsement of European-style social democracy.

Hence the resistance. Hence the fall. The system may not always work, but it does take its revenge.

The one and only Dr. K, here.

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4 Comments »

  1. I have to disagree here. Obama failed not by being too Left but not Left enough. Obama came in on a wave of populism overinflated by corporate media hype. However, after he got in he found himself continuing the Bush bailouts of the imploding Wall Street financial rackets which flourished during the Bush and late Clinton years. He did this because there was no viable politically acceptable alternative at the time – hardly an “ideological stampede” on his part. Indeed fellow Nobel Prize winner and economist Paul Krugman, argues that the bailouts weren’t large enough – an opinion shared by a substantial number of liberal and conservative economists – yet completely at odds with popular opinion. At the same time, he left it up to Congress to spend a year debating Health Care Reform which at a time of great uncertainty for many Americans did not help to sooth fears – leading him to be compared to Hitler by some Tea Party’rs – who seem to favor paying $100 for a 5 minute visit to the doctor. There is no specific aspect of health care reform Americans could likely name as controversial – ideological or not. Rather, it is the confusion generated by the long debate during a perceived time of crisis that leaves Americans grasping at cultural reform as real political reform is hindered by the system. Hence, the longing for Reagan, who it must be pointed out TRIPLED THE NATIONAL DEBT despite the warnings of his own Budget Director… the consequences of which were accurately forecast by dissident CIA agent John Stockwell:

    John Stockwell on the Madness of Reaganomics (about 48 seconds in)
    http://www. youtube. com/watch?v=-CrK9ZUEftQ

    Comment by WombatHead — January 20, 2010 @ 00:52

  2. Though I will concede this issue is highly debatable at this point, yes, the leftwing of Obama’s party isn’t happy with some of the things he’s done. But it’s also pissed off a lot of other people as well. You think Tea Partyers are happy with bailouts and his Wall street policies? Liberals aren’t the ones he’s losing in the polls and in the voting booths. Nobody’s very happy with him right now. Exit polling out of Massachusetts is showing that it was the INDEPENDENTS who are walking away from him, not Liberals. That exit polling mirrors what’s been happenning for about the last 6 months. Obama is losing the independents, not the Liberals. And that’s the thesis of Krauthammer’s article, that at least on healtcare, Obama is governing from the 30 yard line, not between the 40s. That’s why a 60 vote majority in the Senate still isn’t enough to pass his agenda. If you can’t get a single GOP senator to back you, nor the blue dog Dems, the way Clinton had no problem doing (because he was a moderate), then there’s something wrong with the agenda. Re Reagan tripling the debt, Congress has the purse strings, not the president. That’s why the deficit rose under Reagan, shrunk under Clinton, and then started rising again when the Dems regained control in ’06. In all those cases, look to who controlled the Congress. And there is deficit spending, and there is DEFICIT SPENDING. What’s going on now is beyond anything we’ve experienced in generations and people are not happy with it. You can argue that it was the necessary thing to do in order to rescue the economy, but most people aren’t convinced that money to leftwing pet projects was for the purpose of stimulating the economy. That’s why Obama is losing the independents. They believe it’s just Democrats milking it for all its worth. Exit polling here:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704561004575013411330904680.html

    ps., I added spaces to your youtube link because I don’t want video embeds in my comments section.

    Comment by Jesusland — January 20, 2010 @ 08:56

  3. I agree Obama and the Dems have lost support among independents and that the spending going on now is beyond the pale – but not because of ideology but rather the short-sighted greed of the establishment who have usurped $trillions from Americans. I’m also pointing out that no politically viable alternative to the spending has been presented (with the exception of Republican Ron Paul who wants to go back to a Gold standard thereby squashing any prospects for economic growth for generations). Indeed, notables like Paul Krugman and others argue even larger bailouts are needed – something sure to further alienate independents not to mention most Americans, Democrats included, who obviously failed to turn out in the Mass. election despite a 3-1 advantage over registered Republicans. This is because Obama has not been able to sustain the populism which attracted independents from the start. Since the system stymies populism, these independents having nowhere to go now turn to the GOP opposition party which offers no solution, but instead a cultural reactionary marketing campaign against ‘socialism’ and ‘big government’ while in policy supporting socialism and big government for the elite as in the Bushes and Reagan years. Indeed the GOP controlled the Senate for most of Reagan’s two terms so the Reagan deficit can hardly be blamed on a Democrat Congress – I will credit Reagan for his hardline foreign policy stance against the Soviets which in his second term provided the push that hastened their inevitable collapse. However under the subsequent Bush administrations the necessary reduction of deficits failed to materialize – thus enshrining the Reagan deficits into the economy. Yes of course there was 911, which Bush joked about being part of his “lucky trifecta”: http://www.dreamscape.com/morgana/trifecta.htm
    Plus one must really examine Reaganomics, like spending $700 million initiating the offshore tax-haven rush for corporations – a gross example of GOP socialism for the elite.

    William Greider laid it out in detail back in 1992 (9:30 in):

    http://www. youtube. com/watch?v=KGfEGXuVkfE

    Comment by WombatHead — January 20, 2010 @ 11:37

  4. Then thank you for reminding me why both parties suck, though one not as much as the other. Which is why I hate party politics. But like I said, there are deficits, and there are DEFICITS. What you think Reagan did or didn’t do, we could debate that endlessly. But honestly? Who cares. Reaganite economic priniciples are what is as at work here. They are alive and well in the popular psyche regardless of whether you or I think he lived up to them or not.

    Comment by Jesusland — January 20, 2010 @ 11:57


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