When we look back upon the presidency of Barack Obama we will think just this. How could he have thrown away such an opportunity?
President Obama had the chance to forge a new center-left majority that could govern for a generation.
Think about it.
In the Fall of 2008 the economy was in free fall. Americans were prepared to believe it was all the Republicans' fault. But Candidate Obama proposed to get beyond partisan differences and the games in Washington. So what did President Obama do?
President Obama backed the most partisan economic program in our lifetimes, one that practically no Republican could be bullied into supporting. The result? The Tea Party exploded onto the public square within a month of the president's inauguration and independents started bleeding away by the summer of 2009. The president could have disappointed his base (as presidents must do) and forged a co-opting policy that commanded the middle ground and left the right out in the cold. But he didn't.
Candidate Obama gave the impression that his presidency would be post-racial. That's what his famous speech in Chicago in 2004 was all about. But President Obama has acted as a full-on race warrior. His supporters constantly resort to the race card in demonizing his opponents. As a result, the president is losing white moderates. He had a chance to command the middle ground on race and leave the right out in the cold. But he didn't.
Rush Limbaugh hit the nail on the head yesterday while discussing the Shirley Sherrod flap (the black USDA administrator who told an NAACP audience that she realized that her job was not to conduct a race war but a class war). After noting how quickly the mainstream media has rallied round her and the way her remarks were taken out of context, Rush asked what happened to the mainstream media time after time when his remarks have been taken out of context? He then said that the president could put an end to all this race-card game forever. He could say: That's It! We are going to stop this divisive race baiting right now. This administration will not tolerate racism and it will not tolerate false accusations of racism.
At once I felt a partisan chill of fear. Why, if the president did that he would win reelection and probably get the center-left majority that he has almost thrown away with his left-wing economic policy.
But then I thought. Oh no he won't. If President Obama didn't have the strategic vision to understand how a moderate economic policy would create a lasting Democratic majority, then he's hardly likely to realize the strategic opportunity to his party of calling an end to race politics.
Still. I am almost overwhelmed by the scale of the lost opportunity for Democrats. Everything was set up in the fall of 2008. The economy was in free fall; the candidate had promised a new era of post-racial, post-partisan politics.
But as it turned out, the candidate didn't believe the words put into his mouth. It was all just focus-group-driven pablum. President Obama believes in the old religion. He believes in big government. He believes in race wars. And as for class wars...
And in November his party is going to suffer the biggest defeat at the polls in our lifetimes.