Commentary Magazine


The Unraveling

As this report explains, the Obama coalition — made up of diverse groups with conflicting understandings of what he was all about — may be unraveling. There is the “specifically eroding support among young voters and independents — in part because of the president’s economic agenda.” Well, these groups and others have reason to be put off by Obamaism and the Democrats in Congress who have been enabling the lurch to the Left.

With unemployment sky-high among young workers and the prospect of a new mandate to buy health insurance they don’t want and can’t afford, younger voters (who aren’t inclined to turn out in off-year elections anyway) may stand on the sidelines in 2010. In August Michael Barone detailed the anti-youth aspects of Obama’s agenda, noting that even Obama’s cynical foreign policy and indifference to human-rights and democracy promotion don’t offer much for those who bought into the hope-n-change routine:

That leads me to wonder whether you were dismayed when Obama responded with stony indifference to the people in the streets of Iran protesting a fraudulent election and demanding freedom and democracy. Some called for the end of a regime that subordinates women and executes homosexuals, things I’m sure you don’t like at all. Although Obama eventually indicated some sympathy, he seemed to regard those demands as a nuisance getting in the way of negotiating with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the mullahs.

Independents seem to be souring on Obamaism — huge spending, nasty partisanship, and massive debt. Then there are wealthy voters who are discovering just how expensive Obama’s economic agenda might be. In June the Wall Street Journal reported:

Recently elected Democrats from higher-income areas also have been cautious about legislation that would make it easier for labor unions to organize, and about legislation imposing tough new rules on banks. Republicans have savaged the new Democrats for supporting legislation to stem global warming by capping greenhouse-gas emissions, then forcing polluters to purchase and trade emissions.

The real kicker will be the Democrats’ insistence on a massive tax hike — allowing the Bush 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire. Combined with health-care taxes, marginal rates on the wealthy may return to pre-Reagan-tax-cut levels. That will be quite a wake-up call for the professional class that supported Obama in great numbers. Congressmen are not unaware of this:

“They’re just hanging themselves,” says Republican Rep. Sam Graves, who last year beat back a spirited challenge in his northwestern Missouri district, which includes suburban Kansas City, and said he is looking forward to a race on taxes in 2010.

The tax issue is presenting many new Democrats with a quandary as they struggle to get their political footing. “These members are going to have to make their own determinations on how to balance these interests,” said Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and himself a representative of the affluent suburbs of Washington.

And finally, the Left is now miffed at Obama for failing to live up to netroots’ fondest dreams. They haven’t gotten gay marriage, a pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan, or repeal of the Patriot Act. They are grumbling that insufficient progress has been made on their extreme environmental agenda.

In sum, Obama is losing factions of his political coalition in record speed as these groups learn what his agenda is all about. His Democratic allies are likely to bear the brunt of that in 2010 — at a time when the economy has not yet recovered and unemployment is still high. This is why 2010 may, in fact, be a “wave” election and a bracing wake-up call for the White House.