Commentary Magazine


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Change Again?

Daniel Henninger notes that there is a worldwide “throw the bums out” trend. In Japan, the UK, and here in the U.S., it isn’t a good time to be an incumbent. As for the U.S., he observes:

In the U.S., political handicappers are predicting heavy Democratic losses in the House next November. This just four years after ending GOP control of Congress in the 2006 elections and two years after sweeping into office Barack Obama and his Democratic partners.

Congress’s approval rating remains stuck around 30%. This number may be more important as an indicator of public sentiment toward the nation’s leadership than presidential approval.

Some search for an ideological trend toward the left or right in these votes, but the only evident trend is to strike out at whichever blob is currently in power. Even as Americans turned over their country to liberal Democrats, opinion polls showed that the British people were turning toward the Conservatives for relief from listless Labour.

His take is that this is a revolt against indebtedness, caused by the orgy of spending and the silent creep of entitlements and accompanied by a squeeze in payroll taxes. Ordinary voters are left with the sense that no one is really responsible for the whole mess. So, he explains, “national electorates are attempting accountability by voting whole parties out of power.”

The irony is great, of course. The “hope and change” Obama has joined the status quo of debt-mongers while a worldwide grassroots movement, populist and suspicious of the big-government solutions that Obama and his European fan club tout, may sweep this crowd out before they’ve unpacked. It turns out that “change” meant something else to the electorate, at least in the U.S., than what it did to Obama. He set out to change the relationship between the private and public sectors, between citizens and their government. The public just wants government to be accountable and cease gobbling up a greater and greater share of the nation’s wealth.

If Obama doesn’t understand and address the sort of change American voters want, he and his party will also be swept out in the tide of public anger. Getting a peek at that anger this summer must have been a sobering sight — if he could spot it all the way from Martha’s Vineyard. And if he missed the sneak preview, the 2010 elections will be harder to ignore.