Monday, December 24, 2012

Obama the Great Divider

Just in time for Christmas, Hugh Hewitt has a piece on Obama the Great Divider.  Obama has successfully eliminated Speaker Boehner as a negotiating partner for his second term, he writes.
Having managed to lose 4 million votes between 2008 and 2012, the most partisan and relentlessly negative president of modern times doubled down on all of his least generous instincts and went "full Lee Atwater," embracing completely the advice that if your opponent is on the ground with a broken arm, step on it.

Atwater, of course, intended his counsel for the period before elections, but the permanent campaign requires permanent pummeling.
President Obama is the guy that sent the bust of Winston Churchill back to the British Embassy.  Perhaps the most famous apothegm attributed to Churchill is this:
In War: Resolution; In Defeat: Defiance; In Victory: Magnanimity; In Peace: Good Will.
Now why would the pugnacious Churchill propose such a dictum?  Because he was a good guy?  Because he had a weakness for a good turn of phrase?

I suggest that he proposed it because it is good practical advice for anyone in high politics.  When you are fighting you need courage and perseverance.  When you are victorious in war you want to co-opt the losers and discourage them from forming a new head of rebellion.

President Obama seems to think that he doesn't need the goodwill of the loyal opposition, and maybe he is right--for now.  And he has the advantage of a cultural elite that is completely in the tank for him.

But what happens down the road when things turn bad for him and his party?  When the politicians he has humiliated get their chance to stab him in the back?

The central idea in the politics of the left seems to be the act of protest.  It supposes that the left is a powerless group of the marginalized desperately reaching for a moment of publicity in which to announce their grievances to an uncaring world.  In other words, it is 1825 and the workers are working twelve hours a day underground in ill-ventilated mines.

In fact, of course, the left, in its liberal instantiation, is the ruling class of today, not a ragged band of the powerless.  It would, if it were sensible, try to co-opt its adversaries in order to reduce the effectiveness of the opposition.

My guess is that liberals are still reeling from the experience of the Reagan administration.  Here was something inconceivable: an amiable dunce that won the Cold War and ended the stagflation of the 1970s.  If it was real, it would mean that the administrative welfare state of the liberals was a mistake and a chimera, and the whole project was based on a delusion.  So liberals have closed their minds to the idea that Reagan was right, and have returned to their government expansion project like a dog to its vomit.

So now we have President Obama, determined to complete the liberal agenda against all odds and against all opposition.

Here is the problem for liberals in this policy.  It means that conservatives don't have a dog in the fight.  It means that there is nothing in the entire sweep of government policy that reflects conservative ideas and sentiments.  Given our druthers, conservatives would not continue Social Security: we would replace it with a genuine private-sector based savings program with maybe some sweeteners for the low-paid.  We would not continue Medicare and Medicaid, but move to a consumer-based rather than third-party-based healthcare insurance scheme.  We would not continue the government monopoly education system, and we would reform the welfare system at a minimum to reduce the high marginal tax rates on the poor.

Why then would conservatives consent to pay taxes for all these liberal programs?

When you are utterly shut out of the government spending racket and you don't have any dog in the fight then you start to rail at the injustice of it all.  You start to look for alternatives.  You start to gather a head of rebellion.

Churchill's dicta are the practical politician's way of preventing rage from breaking out in the opposition.  President Obama's way is the ideologue's clumsy way of riling up the opposition.

Most likely the near term result will be that the president will leave office in 2017 with the Democratic Party in ruins.

And don't forget the Instapundit Rule: "Something that can’t go on forever, won’t. Debt that can’t be repaid, won’t be. Promises that can’t be kept, won’t be."

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