Commentary Magazine


What Will It Take?

Karl Rove observes:

The narrative Obama White House officials are writing about themselves is that they are uncompromising, ungracious, and ready to run roughshod over popular opinion. They have mastered the Chicago way of politics: reward friends, punish enemies, and jam the opposition. Voters have a tendency to quickly grow tired of pugnacious governance.

There is an irony — or a bait and switch — here that the candidate who ran as the leader of the New Politics, the man to rise above fray and to free himself (and us) from the partisan strife that had polarized the electorate over the past decade or two, is now a hyper-partisan figure. As Rove notes, the hyper-partisanship is married with a far-Left ideological bent — the very combination to turn off independents and allow Republicans to claw back from the ledge of political irrelevance. Yet the administration continues down that same leftist path with a chip on its shoulder. Rove observes:

Maybe the Obama inner sanctum realizes that its agenda is unpopular and will cost many Democrats their seats next year but calculates that enough will survive to keep the party in control of Congress. Perhaps they have decided that Mr. Obama’s goal of turning America into a European-style social democracy is worth risking a voter revolt.

Nevertheless, anxious supporters and nervous Democrats wonder if Obama can or will moderate both his agenda and his style in order to preserve his own standing and his party’s electoral prospects. One supposes that the Obami read the poll numbers, look at the election returns, and listen to the pleas of moderate and conservative Democrats. Logic and political experience might dictate that a course correction is in order. Wouldn’t they want to slow the backlash and stem the wave of opposition?

Well, perhaps not. One senses that this White House is more immune than most to inconvenient data and criticism, constructive and otherwise. They have fallen into the habit of vilifying and marginalizing their opponents, suggesting that the administration discounts their arguments and ignores the bad news. They may simply not believe that the president and his party are losing the affection and trust of the American people.

It may be that only an electoral comeuppance will dent the White House bubble. New Jersey and Virginia may not make an impact, but significant losses in Congress may suggest, finally, that running hard Left and governing like a Chicago pol have their limitations.