Fred Barnes posits: “The more Obama succeeds, the better. The more of his agenda that’s enacted, the more an appealing conservative Republican alternative will emerge.” There is a certain counterintuitive logic here. If President Obama “succeeds” in taking away union secret ballot elections, raising taxes, loosening or abolishing restrictions on abortions, spending hundreds of billions on corporate bailouts, and nationalizing health care then Republicans will seem a whole lot saner and more appealing. The country will be the worse for it, but Republicans prospects will brighten.
We don’t know how this will work in practice, in part because the great mystery — who is the person we just elected 44th President? — is not resolved. But whether the “real” Obama is a moderate or a liberal Democrat, we can be sure he’s not a fiscal conservative. As Barnes concludes:
But don’t bet on his actually advocating tax cuts, especially of the across-the-board variety, aimed at fostering investment. That would represent a total reversal by Obama of his economic plan and cause a serious rift with his liberal followers. . . Rejecting tax cuts, Obama may try to spend his way out of the recession. Deficit spending can help for a while. It did for FDR. But when he had to cut back, the economy worsened. Obama would have to cut back, too. My point is this: Serious, economy-boosting tax cuts have a bright future. That is unless you think the economy will quickly be restored to health without them or that Obama might successfully blame the absence of recovery on Wall Street or business or rich folks, as FDR did. I doubt both those propositions. Obama is likeable and clever, but he’s not a magician.
So in the end the only question in 2010 — and more so in 2012 — will be “Did President Obama make things better?” If he doesn’t (by renouncing key components of his campaign rhetoric), the Democrats will have to come up with something better that “It’s Bush’s fault.” By then it will be Obama’s problem.