Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"A Year Later" And A Referendum

Sorry I took a while to get a post up today. I had to take my oldest dog up to the vet after a difficult doggy dementia night last night...

Today is a big day in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as the special election to fill Sen. Kennedy's seat gets underway. It should be an interesting day to see how things fall out, to be sure.

But this isn't just a vote to select a new senator. By all accounts, this is a referendum on the Obama Presidency, his Healthcare Bill (more on that below), and the anger in the country right now over lost jobs, unemployment, and the ever-increasing deficit, as well as government.

Yes, just A Year Later, The Obama Thrill Is Gone, as Charles Krauthammer writes in this piece:
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.

The latter two have certainly been in the news the most, with the Democrats' Healthcare plan, and Obama's "Cap and Trade" concept. No doubt, that led to this:
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.

I think we are seeing that very thing materializing in Massachusetts today. Because:
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. (Charles Krauthammer's e-mail address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com)

Speaking of James Carville, as Krauthammer does above, according to Carville's own polling, Carville Poll: Only A third Of Voters Support Barack Obama’s National Health-care Plan.

And that is why the Special Election in Massachusetts is a referendum on Obama's first year, and his signature legislation. That is also why so many in the Commonwealth are planning on voting for Scott Brown - Martha Coakley has already reversed herself on the healthcare bill. In addition to everything else we have learned about her of late, we have learned that she can be coerced to toe the line by the Democratic Party. Not exactly the independent thinker for which many of us are looking.

Time will tell, and fairly soon we will know the outcome of this election, this referendum. Should be interesting!

10 comments:

SFIndie said...

I think I would have to disagree with Krauthammer when he says, "To his credit, Obama didn't just come to Washington to be someone." I think Obama came to Washington to be adored, to be king of the world, to be a living legend by fundamentally changing the very foundations of this country.

I'd also have to disagree that "A year ago, Obama was the most charismatic politician on Earth." Only to the kool-aid drinkers. He has about as much charisma to me as a wet noodle.

Even if Scott Brown loses this special election, I think the message has been sent to the Dems in Congress, loud and clear. If in the bluest state in the country a Republican can run this tight of a race, y'all better watch out in your own states!

Looks like there's some voter fraud going on already, Michelle Malkin is keeping track on her website.

Aruba in February...oh, Rev, that is SO tempting! But at the moment I can't leave sick kitty more than a few days at a time. He's holding his own, but has more days when he feels crummy than feels well, and he goes into a depression when mommy isn't there at night to cuddle him.

How's YOUR baby?? Oh my, doggy dementia. Truly cannot imagine how challenging that must be. My thoughts are with you!

Mary Ellen said...

Hi Rev. Amy--sorry I couldn't get back here...busy as all get out at home.

Sorry to hear about your doggie...hope everything is ok.

Regarding this election, I have a friend that lives in Mass. and works as a lawyer for one of the municipalities there. He just told me,
"I went around the polling places with my local chief elections official (where I work), and the turnout is quite high. We predict at least 50% turnout. I think that works in Brown's favor, since most Mass. voters are unenrolled, and Brown seems to be getting the lion's share of independent voters. Will keep you posted."

Not sure if this is just wishful thinking because he is a Brown supporter, or if this is the reality. I guess we'll see.

First page on the Chicago Trib..all about Obama's "status report" and how he never came back to "use Chicago like my 'Kennebunkport'" as promised on the campaign trail. Personally, I'm glad he stays the hell out and doesn't stink the place up.

Was watching "Morning Joe" this morning and there was some Obot dude talking about how Obama and the Dems need to "get their message out" and how Obama should "spin" the health care plan, etc. But he was pretty much shouted down and told that Obama and the Dems think that content means nothing, all Obama and the Dems want to do is blame Bush. That's all that crowd thinks about...how they can lie to the American people and twist their words around as they put a pretty bow on it...they call it spin...I call it lies.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

SFIndie - I have NO idea what happened to your comment! I didn't even get a chance to read the whole thing - I hit "Publish," went to see what you said, fixed something in the piece, and *POOF*, it had disappeared! I'll check back and see if it reappears.

I thought of you SOOmuch yesterday - I just happened to catch an episode of Househunter International, and it was abt MALTA!!! :-D

SFIndie said...

ROFLMAO...I guess those computer gremlins just didn't like what I had to say! Hmmm, if I could only remember what words of wisdom I spouted.

Ohhhh, Malta....I bet it's lots warmer than it is here right now! And likely a lot saner. Talked to my brother in Australia yesterday (I love skype!), he said every time he thinks of coming back to the U.S. for a visit, he just reads about the craziness going on here and changes his mind. Thank heaven I have ONE sibling who never drank the kool-aid!

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Wowie zowie - now BOTH of your comments are here! Yay!

SF - yes, you are so right. Krauthammer can still be a bit too glowing abt Obama from time to time, and certainly, IMHO, attributes to him characteristics he does not possess. No doubt abt it.

I just heard this Democratic strategist say exactly what you said: this is a clear message to the Dems. She said it will make it harder for more moderate Dems like Blanche Lincoln when she runs this year (as well as some others).

Oh, Raymond - I was wondering how he was, but since you hadn't mentioned him recently, I feared the worst...I am glad your boy is still with you.

Our great dog, Sasha, is starting to have some dementia issues. She's at least 14 1/2 yrs old, and we call her Skippity Do Dog. She has always been the happiest dog. That's what made her episode last night so painful - she was so anxious and agitated. There was nothing I could do for her to make it better, either. So frustrating. She got lost in our yard - 3/4 acre fenced in for the dogs - at the very front of the yard, in the dark. She seemed so relieved when I came and found her (she's also gone mostly deaf, too). Poor thing. My vet said it does seem to get worse at night. So, they did some bloodwork to rule out any other issues, though to rule out a brain tumor would require a CT scan. Not that we aren't willing to do that, just getting started here. It started out slowly a few months ago, and escalated a lot in the past two weeks. Sigh...

Oh, SF - I wish you could have seen that show on Malta! Wow - so beautiful.

Glad you have a sane sibling - your lucky!

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Mary Ellen - thank you for the update. The same strategist I mentioned above said that since 52% of MA voters are independents, they are the ones Brown has to get.

I happened to hear Olbermann's rant against Brown via The Daily Show (Jon Stewart took it to the Dems). WOW. It is amazing the slurs they have put out against Brown. Olbermann said he was a racist homophobe who wanted women to have violence done against them. WTH??? That's INSANE! I mean, even if you're for Coakley, that kind of rant is just nuts!

It's going to be an interesting night, isn't it?

LOL abt Chicago - aren't you SO glad he doesn't come back there? I wondered if he would. Of course not, though - not when he has AF1 at his disposal to fly all around for fun. Why stop at Chicago when there is Hawaii? Yeah. Uh huh.

Thanks, too - it is so hard to watch our older beloved pets decline, isn't it? Sigh...

SFIndie said...

Looks like the Malta show is being repeated on Jan 29, so I'll definitely be watching!

Poor Skippity...it must be so scary to feel so lost in what was once familiar territory. Nothing we can do for our ailing 4-legged companions but give them lots of love.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Excellent, SF! Wait until you see the blue of the water - gorgeous!

I know - it was so hard, though, SF. She is usually the most bubbly dog, and she was so anxious, so agitated...She is better tonight, thank heavens, but it is clear her age is catching up with her...

nazareth priest said...

Rev. Amy: Sorry to hear about your "pooch"...hope all is well.
We have two here who drive us nuts but love us unconditionally...even when I have a "meltdown" over something...they jump come back and forget it all!

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Thanks so much, Nazareth Priest - I appreciate that. She was better last night, but it is definitely a glimpse into what is coming, much sooner than we'd want, of course. We have had her for a lot of years, and she has given us so much love and joy - Sasha has NEVER met a stranger. She loves everyone, people and animals, too. And we will cherish every moment we have with our Skippity Do Dog...