Commentary Magazine


Losing His Image, Losing the Center

Even the New York Times sees that, despite Obama’s effort to alter the political and social-welfare landscape, he may have succeeded only in enraging the public. David Sanger writes:

But there is no doubt that in the course of this debate, Mr. Obama has lost something — and lost it for good. Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago — the promise of a “postpartisan” Washington in which rationality and calm discourse replaced partisan bickering.

Never in modern memory has a major piece of legislation passed without a single Republican vote. …

“Let’s face it, he’s failed in the effort to be the nonpolarizing president, the one who can use rationality and calm debate to bridge our traditional divides,” said Peter Beinart, a liberal essayist who is publishing a history of hubris in politics. “It turns out he’s our third highly polarizing president in a row. But for his liberal base, it confirms that they were right to believe in the guy — and they had their doubts.”

For that lesson in governing, Mr. Obama paid a heavy price. He nearly lost the health care debate, and pulled out victory only after deferring nearly every other priority and stumping with a passion he had not shown since his campaign. His winning argument, in the end, was that while the political result could run against him — and other Democrats — remaking health care was a keystone of his “Change You Can Believe In” credo.

Well, not quite. His campaign credo opposed mandatory insurance and promised not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. But this much is clear: Obama has handed his opponents a message and a target. The Republican party will put many internal arguments aside and focus on the objective of challenging and repealing ObamaCare. The Left — when not considering that Obama has now herded Americans into the arms of Big Insurance — may be delighted. But no party can win and govern for long without the vast center of the American electorate. Obama has now ceded that to his political opponents.