Lots of conservatives like to call Barack Obama the reincarnation of Jimmy Carter–hell, I own this shirt–but you know it’s becoming obvious even to lefties that our current pResident is an epic fail when Peter Beinart is writing crap like this.
In retrospect, the dominant political reality of the Clinton years was the culture war, a struggle over what kind of nation America would be once being anticommunist ceased being a meaningful national identity. Politics in the Bush years was dominated by the “war on terror,” the right’s effort to reenact the Cold War struggle and the left’s recovery of its own antiwar tradition in response.
Thank God the Left recovered it’s antiwar traditions. That explains all those massive ANSWER/Code Pink/Cindy Sheehan led protests of President Obama’s Libyan War.
Oh wait. No. That hasn’t even sorta happened. Beinart is just making that up. But it sounds good, so whatevs.
For liberals, the Obama years were supposed to mark a return to progressive government activism, a latter-day Great Society. But the Great Society, it’s crucial to remember, was launched in the mid-1960s, at the high noon of American optimism about our position in the world. What destroyed it, among other things, was the painful realization, by the early 1970s, that American resources were more finite, and America’s international position more fragile, than Johnson and his whiz-kid advisers had understood. Similarly, it is now clear that today’s political environment is less like the early and mid-1960s, that era of liberal optimism—or even the 1980s, which were dominated by Reagan’s conservative optimism—than by the deeply pessimistic 1970s. President Obama, like presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter, will be defined by how he manages the politics of decline.
What does that mean? America is teh suck and Obama’s gonna blame it on the GOP?
Why yes, yes it does.
Winning reelection is not the hardest part. While any president would prefer to run in boom time, it’s possible to win reelection with the country in a down mood. Richard Nixon won big in 1972, for instance, at a time of deep and convulsive national unhappiness. He did so by beginning to withdraw American ground troops from Vietnam, but also by blaming the nation’s unhappiness on his enemies in the antiwar, feminist, black-power and counterculture movements, which he hung around the neck of Democratic nominee George McGovern.
Translation-Hey meanie head Rethuglicans: Barack Obama can too win!
This is where Beinart tries to put some lead into Double A Barry’s old and busted pencil. The problem is that unless Grand Funk Railroad is gonna drop a big platinum-selling record that nobody knows about, 2012 isn’t going to look like 1972. Nixon could play the McGovern-is-an-extremist card because, well, McGovern was an extremist. Can Obama do the same thing against Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry or even Sarah Palin? Perhaps, but that assumes that conservatives don’t outnumber liberals by a nearly to 2-to-1 ratio.
We don’t yet know whether the Republicans will nominate their own version of McGovern—an ideological activist like Michelle Bachmann—or an establishment, it’s-my-turn, figure like Mitt Romney. But either way, Obama’s likely reelection strategy echoes Nixon’s: tie his opponent to the most extreme elements of his or her party, and blame him or her for the country’s woes.
Let’s just get to brass tacks. The current political/economic/cultural milieu is really different than 1972. To be blunt, the problems are worse. In the early 70’s, America was in the midst of a crisis of confidence. Things were not great, but it also wasn’t the end of the world. In the 21st century, we face existential questions brought on by the coming collapse of the progressive welfare state.
Not the same, Pete. Not. The. Same.
That’s also what Bill Clinton did in 1996, when he defeated Bob Dole by running against Newt Gingrich. The debt deal makes that task easier, since most Americans appear to have blamed the Republican Congress—and the Tea Party in particular—rather than the White House.
Bill Clinton could play against the extremist GOPers because unemployment averaged 5.4% when he ran for reelection. Unemployment is over 9% now. I know the future remains doggedly difficult to predict, but does anybody see a whole lot of encouraging signs that the US jobless rate will get down to five and change by, oh say, September ’12? How’s about a soft 7.5% unemployment by Labor Day ’12? Do I have any takers for a solid 8 percent? Anyone, anyone?
Obama’s numbers—which now hover in the low 40s—are worryingly low. If they dip into the 30s and stay there, he’ll be in serious trouble. But if he can inch back to the middle and high 40s, he’ll have a reasonable shot at reelection given that, according to a recent New York Times poll, only 20 percent of Americans approve of the Tea Party and Congress’ approval rating is even lower than that. And whoever the Republicans nominate, those are the institutions Obama will be running against.
A few things to laugh at here. Relying on a New York Times poll for an accurate measurement of reality is kinda like relying on Lady Gaga for sensible everyday fashion advice.
The other thing Beinart assumes is that the GOP nominates somebody tied at the waist to the GOP Congress. Some of the candidates fit the bill, but most don’t. What happens if the Republicans nominate Rick Perry? The Texas governor has ties to the Tea Party, but he’s not a House member, so how does Obama make Beinart’s suggested tactic work?
But even if Obama can win, the crucial question is, Can he win big enough to change the GOP? The single factor most contributing to American decline is the Republican Party’s theological opposition to raising taxes, a theology with Ronald Reagan as its patron saint, even though Reagan himself raised taxes several times as president.
Oh, the doucherocketry is very strong here.
An aversion to raising taxes is the biggest problem in the US? For reals, homeboy? If the US government took every penny in the American economy, it still could not pay off the national debt. That would seem to suggest that the problem isn’t tax revenues, but spending.
But yeah, let’s raise taxes because it’ll make a few lefty hacks at The Nation get a nice pinko heart-boner. It’ll be an absolutely pointless, totally symbolic gesture that has a good chance of strangling an economic recovery–which is pretty much modern liberalism in a nutshell.
In the short term, America needs stimulus.
For Peter Beinart, a 30% jump in the national debt and a 9% unemployment rate means that we should have another stimulus bill. In other counter-intuitive bullshit, lung cancer patients should take up a four-pack-a-day habit to whip those pesky tumors.
But in the longer term, virtually every graybeard ex-senator and blue-ribbon panelist agrees that the only way to confront our frightening national debt is to cut health-care spending, cut defense, and raise taxes, beginning by letting some or all of the Bush tax cuts expire.
When will liberals make Obama take responsibility for anything? Is it ever going to be St. Barry’s fault?
It’s amazing how much the Bush bogeyman still haunts lefty nightmares. Think about this: In 2001, George Bush was the illegitimate president/moronic puppet of Darth Cheney and corporate fascists. He inherited a recession from Bill Clinton. How often did Dubya piss and moan about it?
Even better–Somehow the progressive’s favorite synonym for ‘idiot’ somehow managed to skull fuck the Obama presidency three years after he left office. But wait, wasn’t President Pantscrease supposed to be an omnicompetent scary-smart genius? If anybody was supposed to be able to handle the mess left by Bushitler Chimplerburton, it should be Obama.
Why, it’s almost like the Left wildly inflated expectations because they were in love with O’Bambi or something.
Obama’s real challenge, therefore, is not merely to win, but to win convincingly enough that he provokes a reassessment on the other side of the aisle, a Republican version of the Democratic Leadership Council that challenged liberal orthodoxies in the wake of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush’s victories in the 1980s. Unless that happens, Americans may be living with the politics of decline for a very long time.
Shorter Beinart: Come on left-wingers, let’s do Obama a real solid and vote like crazy in 2012, pretty please.
Barring some massive tectonic shift in American politics–which is always possible–Barry ain’t winning big.
Beinart can keep trying to pump up the Left’s morale all he wants. He can continue to have these wacky delusions to his heart’s content. It isn’t going to change the shitty economy Obama has overseen, President Unprecedented’s unprecedented credit downgrade, the wars Barry has gotten us into or any other miserable symptoms of failure this Admnistration has wrought on America.