Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trashing Bill Clinton's Legacy

Whatever you think of Bill Clinton, he did a bang-up job of rehabilitating the Democratic "brand."

During his presidency he changed the way that people thought about Democrats. They weren't hippy-dippy anti-war "Blame America First" activists or big-government ideologues. No, no. They were pragmatic New Democrats that understood that the era of big government was over. The extremists, on the other hand, were the mad, bad ranters on the Christian Right.

In one short year, President Obama has ripped Clinton's careful work to shreds. He's been running around apologizing for America, bowing to dictators, waving his finger at allies. And he has launched a full Monty liberal program of government takeovers from health care to automobiles.

And the American people hate it.

So now we've got to the point that pundits and prognosticators are salivating about a really big mid-term election this Fall. You know, the kind that historians love, with 70-plus seats changing hands in the US House of Representatives. Sean Trende thinks we could be looking at a real biggie.

He's got a chart that lines up elections with three factors: bad economy (check), previous "wave" election where one party did really well (check), and controversial agenda (check). When the stars align that way you can get really big elections. Like 1938, when the GOP picked up 79 seats. Or 1894 when 125 seats changed hands. Or 1874 when 96 seats changed party.

It's been a while. And these days, nobody expects a shift of as many as 50 seats, for, after all, these days politicians have enormous advantages of incumbency.

Except when they don't.

Looking back, you can appreciate the skill of Bill Clinton. He always kept nudging towards bigger government, but he always did it in a non-threatening way.

President Obama doesn't have the political skills of a Bill Clinton. He just figures: go for it. Go for all the liberal gusto you can and hope that, on the morning after, you have ratcheted big government up another notch.

Hey, it makes sense. Until, as the saying goes, you reach a Tipping Point, when the American people can see the strategic reality behind the words and the hype and the "brand."

At that point you remember that politics is civil war by other means and you just hope that things stay civilized.

Let's de-Clausewitz this. Politics is civil war for civilized people. And a 100-seat turn in the US House of Representatives is the political equivalent of the Fall of Atlanta.

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