Commentary Magazine


Crisis in Liberal Land

To the Editor:

The reasons President Obama might be defeated in 2012 are simpler and more fundamental than those suggested by John Podhoretz [“The Liberal Crisis,” December 2010]. The issue is not a protest against a “liberal agenda.” Rather, Joe the Plumber and most Main Street voters perceive Mr. Obama as a professor who presides over a country he believes is in decline. An overwhelming majority of Americans disagree. The larger perception of the country and its standing, rather than the size of the deficit or the vagaries of health care or tax cuts, could be the president’s undoing.

Aharon Meytah
Ashdod, Israel

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To the Editor:

The evidence to support John Podhoretz’s claim that Ross Perot’s 1992 election bid “got Bill Clinton elected” is well below acceptable standards. His assertion that because the Democratic share of the national vote was the same in 1988, 1992, and 1994, Perot’s 1992 support came from people who would have otherwise voted Republican is, at best, very misleading. With Clinton’s being on the ballot in only one of those years, and with a completely different set of issues at play in each year, the assumption does not hold water. After Perot left the race, and before he re-entered, a New York Times poll gave Clinton a 55-31 lead over Bush, surely a much better test of Mr. Podhoretz’s hypothesis. The idea that Perot’s presence in the 1992 race cost President Bush re-election is a complete myth routinely propagated by right-leaning publications.

James Neill
Alexandria, Virginia

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To the Editor:

I think John Podhoretz overlooks the Democrats’ vital need for the black vote, without which they would stand no chance of victory in 2012. Democrats must have Barack Obama withdraw on his own and campaign for them in order to elect someone like Feingold. If the president is defeated in a re-election bid, or just quits and signals that he is staying home, the black voter, too, will stay home. In my view, Obama holds all the cards.

Larry Hughes
Marshall, Michigan

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To the Editor:

There are lessons to be drawn and learned from different historical events, but one should be very careful not to go too far. Voting patterns during different periods had their own dynamics. I voted for McGovern even though I knew that Nixon was the man for the job. But because of the Chicago chaos and the war, I voted for someone I didn’t care for. We know that Obama can run an effective campaign and has a real touch for speaking to the voters. Thus, no matter how ineffective he has been as a leader and no matter how counterproductive his policies, depending on the mood and important issues of America in the latter part of 2012, he could very likely out-campaign his Democratic rivals as well as his Republican opponent.

Kenneth S. Besig
Kiryat Arba, Israel

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To the Editor:

John Podhoretz has written a characteristically insightful article. I am curious whether he believes Russ Feingold might be contemplating a challenge, not so much because Feingold views himself as being to the left of Obama but because he views the real Obama as far to Mr. Feingold’s own left. I have the impression that Mr. Feingold is an honorable man and a person who genuinely respects America. Might it be that he has concluded that Obama’s version of liberalism is a radical and malignant one and that the president will destroy the Democratic Party for generations if left unchecked.

Don McPherson
Lewisville, Texas

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To the Editor:

John Podhoretz is to be commended on a well-written article. I think he frames things most accurately when he suggests that Mr. Obama has enacted programs that are alien to mainstream American thinking. We are used to freedom of choice in medical matters. We do not appreciate nationalization of the auto industry, nor do we think Congress should empower itself to seize any business it sees fit. And we detest the national debt being so large that every family of four is now in debt to the tune of about $333,000. Advertisements for gold and dire warnings of inflation caused by the Fed’s use of the printing press are common on TV. Also, Americans are in more serious need and have become more impatient. They do not forgive a poorly performing president to the extent that they once did.

Rod Hug
Santa Rosa, California

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To the Editor:

I was reminded, shortly before reading the reflections of John Podhoretz on the November 2010 elections, of observations in the January 1973 Commentary on the November 1972 elections, from Norman Podhoretz and from Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab.

At the conclusion of his comments on Richard Nixon’s victory over George McGovern, Norman Podhoretz described “[t]he McGovern ideologues” as “patronizing, unsympathetic, and finally hostile to the feelings and beliefs of the majority of the American people.” Is it far-fetched to regard current TSA airport procedures as a literally palpable expression of the McGovernite political mindset?

Messrs. Lipset and Raab concluded in their article, “The Election and the National Mood,” that McGovern and his staff “totally misjudged the character of the American electorate.” The authors continued: “The convention and the campaign were conducted as though the American public consisted of two large factions: one basically alienated from the American order, the other evilly dedicated to turning the clock back.” Lipset and Raab found that “opinion surveys” refuted the McGovernite assumptions, acknowledging the existence of “such factions in the country, but they are hardly large ones.”

Lipset and Raab indicated that the McGovernites represented “the smallest faction of a major party ever to secure the Presidential nomination.” It is not unreasonable, I think, to conclude that the McGovernites, while controlling the entire Democratic Party apparatus, still remain a rather small political faction in the country.

Meanwhile, those regarded as belonging to the “Tea Party” are growing in strength—and looking back for the purpose of restoring our founding legacy. For McGovernites, this looking back might well be seen as evil, as any aristocrat might view the concept of popular government. The results of the recent election tell me that the American people are not yet prepared to restore the ancien régime in the guise of McGovernism (much less “ObamaCare”).

David R. Zukerman
Bronx, New York

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John Podhoretz writes:

I was neither recommending that some Democrat challenge Barack Obama in 2012 nor that Republicans should count on one. There might be, there might not—today I’d say there won’t be, in part for the reasons adduced by Larry Hughes and Kenneth Besig, and in part because the economic picture may be brightening. But it may also not be brightening, and if the crisis does not let up, President Obama will not get a pass. James Neill disagrees with my analysis of Ross Perot’s role in Bill Clinton’s election. I commend Three’s a Crowd, by Walter Stone and Ronald Rapoport, to him and to everyone interested in the matter.




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