Friday, January 22, 2010
In praise of humility
Scott Brown’s election this past Tuesday offers the Democratic Party a new hope. A new hope for a politics of modesty in place of the politics of arrogance; a new hope for a politics of cooperation in place of the politics of demonization. Democrats might not realize it now, but they have before them a historic opportunity to seize the day and regain the trust of the American people for at least a generation. By turning their backs once and for all on the scorched-earth approach of the party’s liberal wing, Democrats can consolidate their legitimate gains while cutting loose their least reliable partners. They have the ability; all they need is the will.
The problem—if there is one—is that time is tight, and the party will need to move on several fronts at once. What follows is not an exhaustive list, but rather a series of first steps Democrats will need to take if they are to remain a meaningful majority party.
Scaling back the gay agenda
The voters of Massachusetts know only too well the damage wrought by the Obama Administration’s relentless pursuit of radical GLBTQ policies. Tuesday’s exit polls revealed that 77 percent of voters were “opposed” or “strongly opposed” to the Obama Administration’s promotion of arranged gay marriages in which prospective partners were “chosen” (or, more accurately, assigned) by a lottery conducted by each state’s Secretary of State. Opposition to Obama’s “Queering Coupledom” initiative rose to over 90 percent when voters were informed that the program allowed state officials to dissolve existing heterosexual marriages and re-assign husbands and wives to state-sanctioned same-sex couples.
The lesson is clear. From the moment he chose Harvey Fierstein to deliver the invocation at his inauguration to the week he conducted a special White House “webinar” on Michael Warner’s The Trouble with Normal, Barack Obama has put straight America on notice that he considers the United States to be a Queer Nation. It is only fitting that the electoral rebuke to Obama’s insistence on the “fierce urgency of queering America now” came in the form of a virile heterosexual Republican who looks pretty darn good with his shirt off.
Full employment and empty arms
Nothing says “socialist maniac” like a full-employment policy, and Obama’s is no exception. When the markets bottomed out last March, Obama could have taken the opportunity to restore confidence in the world’s financial system and to keep faith with America’s hardworking bank executives and hedge fund managers. Instead, Obama declared war on the very people he needed to cultivate as allies, announcing the creation of a “Ten Million Good Jobs” program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure—freeways, tunnels, bridges, high-speed rail, and, most controversially, low-income housing. Coupled with Obama’s decision to nationalize the banking system and freeze the assets of global financial services firms Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the “Ten Million Good Jobs” program sounded to many ordinary Americans like a homegrown version of China’s Great Leap Forward, complete with sham production quotas and widespread famine. It was not long before Obama Administration’s obsessive drive to reduce the unemployment rate to zero met with significant pushback from voters who understand that freedom isn’t free. Additionally, Democrats did themselves no favors by ridiculing the GOP’s “alternative budget” last spring, even though the budget clearly promised lower taxes, reforms to Medicare and Medicaid, universal access to affordable health coverage, and limits on federal spending. Americans may not understand all the details of the federal budget process, but they know rude behavior when they see it, and they know they didn’t send their elected representatives to Washington to get their jollies by mocking their opponents’ proposals for economic recovery.
℞ for health care reform
No issue enrages the Democrats’ far-left base more than health care, and nothing reveals the Obama Administration’s craven capitulation to that base more readily than its take-no-prisoners approach to the issue. From the outset, when the President himself declared that he would “brush off” skeptics of his plan and would not “suffer fools gladly” in negotiations, the Obama Administration has charged into this sensitive political arena with all the subtlety of the Tazmanian Devil. Congressional leaders were left out of the loop, as White House advisors told them “we’re not making the mistakes of 1993 again—we’re just going to ram this thing through whether you like it or not.” Give me single-payer or give me death was the rallying cry, and no one should have been surprised when, last August, many voters heard that slogan as a coded call for “death panels” that would oversee a brutal, heartless regime of healthcare rationing for the elderly and disabled. Fortunately, widely respected healthcare experts such as Betsy McCaughey and Megan McArdle exposed Obama’s Eurosocialistcare for what it was, and the Tea Party Patriots™ were born. In less than a year after the first national Tea Party™ rally, Scott Brown, Tea Party Patriot™ in good standing, was elected to the Senate. The symbolism couldn’t be any more evocative: Brown’s election not only renews the original Tea Party revolt in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, it also allows ordinary taxpaying Americans to dance on Ted Kennedy’s grave.
Historians will long wonder what might have happened—and what real social progress might have been achieved—if only Obama had sought a moderate, bipartisan solution to America’s healthcare crisis.
Executive power and its discontents
Prudent constitutionalists have been taken aback by Obama’s slash-and-burn attitude toward federal appointees. Ordinarily, this would be a wonky, inside-baseball consideration, but Obama’s excesses have registered even with Joe and Judy Six-Pack. The appointment of Maulana Ron Karenga as Secretary of Education was a warning sign, followed swiftly by “Operation Blackout,” the Obama Administration’s plan to stack the federal judiciary with ACORN-approved attorneys and underqualified campaign workers whose only interview question was “what is it about Barack Obama that makes you want to serve him?” As longtime Democratic pollster and advisor Patrick Caddell acknowledged in August, Obama’s bench-packing amounted to “a gross violation of the idea of an independent judiciary and a responsible executive branch.”
The politics of vengeance
Obama’s vendetta against the Bush Administration achieved at least one of its goals: it destroyed what little was left of comity and civility in Washington. Announcing, in only the first week of his Presidency, that he would “not rest until Dick Cheney hangs in The Hague,” Obama proceeded to embark on a program of vilification and vituperation more suited to a banana republic than to the world’s only superpower. “Dick Cheney was precisely the wrong target for Obama,” notes veteran Democratic advisor Lanny Davis. “Americans don’t see him as their enemy. Americans see him as a kind of crazy old Uncle Fester—but an Uncle Fester who kept them safe.” Obama’s determination to “root out torture,” “bring John Yoo to justice,” and “get to the bottom of those fishy Gitmo suicides” alienated independent voters across the country, who understand intuitively why the Bush Administration had to take aggressive measures to stop terrorism after inheriting the tragedy of September 11, 2000. “Let’s not bicker and argue about who tortured who,” wrote Democratic advisor Dan Gerstein last April. “We need to look forward, not backward.” But the White House would hear none of it, and now it reaps the whirlwind.
Clearly, the Democrats have a great deal of rebuilding to do. The loss in Massachusetts should serve as a wake-up call to the wing of the Democratic Party that wants the federal government to overreach, overspend, and overprosecute. Let’s hope that this time, there’s someone in the White House ready and willing to answer the phone.