Commentary Magazine


Topic: Divided government

Moderates Aren’t Moderate

Trying to puzzle out why it is that the country is entranced with political outsiders (how could it be that the country is in revolt against Obama? such a mystery … ), David Brooks paints a picture of an ordinary guy who’s worked hard his whole life only to discover “a political system that undermined the relationship between effort and reward.” (Brooks doesn’t say it, but the term for this is “liberalism.”) Brooks then goes on to bemoan the shriveling political center — “a feckless shell”:

It has no governing philosophy. Its paragons seem from the outside opportunistic, like Arlen Specter, or caught in some wishy-washy middle, like Blanche Lincoln. The right and left have organized, but the center hasn’t bothered to. The right and left have media outlets and think tanks, but the centrists are content to complain about polarization and go home. By their genteel passivity, moderates have ceded power to the extremes.

But that’s not exactly right. It isn’t passivity or good manners that have left moderates in the lurch. What’s happened is that the moderates have become indistinguishable from liberals. Specter and Lincoln both voted for the stimulus plan, the bank bailout, and ObamaCare. None of them opposed Obama on a single significant legislative matter.

Brooks despairs that when the average voter looked for candidates “who might understand his outrage, he only found them among the ideological hard-liners.” That would be liberals or conservatives who don’t buy the statist, corporatist Obama vision. Brooks warns the hapless voter that he “is going to be disappointed again. He’s going to find that the outsiders he sent to Washington just screamed at each other at ever higher decibels. … Nothing will get done.”

But getting nothing done is the first step to reversing the damage wrought by the Democrats’ leftist splurge. Divided government and robust debate will slow and hopefully halt the runaway train. Now, if we had a less radical president, we might actually “get something done” — that is, reverse the excesses of Obamaism and return to fiscal sanity. (As a bonus, we’d begin to restore our alliances, get out of the business of sucking up to the “Muslim World,” and champion democracy promotion and human rights.) But that is for 2012. Step one is voting for non-statists who won’t roll over and play dead whenever Obama pushes for the next radical expansion of government.

Trying to puzzle out why it is that the country is entranced with political outsiders (how could it be that the country is in revolt against Obama? such a mystery … ), David Brooks paints a picture of an ordinary guy who’s worked hard his whole life only to discover “a political system that undermined the relationship between effort and reward.” (Brooks doesn’t say it, but the term for this is “liberalism.”) Brooks then goes on to bemoan the shriveling political center — “a feckless shell”:

It has no governing philosophy. Its paragons seem from the outside opportunistic, like Arlen Specter, or caught in some wishy-washy middle, like Blanche Lincoln. The right and left have organized, but the center hasn’t bothered to. The right and left have media outlets and think tanks, but the centrists are content to complain about polarization and go home. By their genteel passivity, moderates have ceded power to the extremes.

But that’s not exactly right. It isn’t passivity or good manners that have left moderates in the lurch. What’s happened is that the moderates have become indistinguishable from liberals. Specter and Lincoln both voted for the stimulus plan, the bank bailout, and ObamaCare. None of them opposed Obama on a single significant legislative matter.

Brooks despairs that when the average voter looked for candidates “who might understand his outrage, he only found them among the ideological hard-liners.” That would be liberals or conservatives who don’t buy the statist, corporatist Obama vision. Brooks warns the hapless voter that he “is going to be disappointed again. He’s going to find that the outsiders he sent to Washington just screamed at each other at ever higher decibels. … Nothing will get done.”

But getting nothing done is the first step to reversing the damage wrought by the Democrats’ leftist splurge. Divided government and robust debate will slow and hopefully halt the runaway train. Now, if we had a less radical president, we might actually “get something done” — that is, reverse the excesses of Obamaism and return to fiscal sanity. (As a bonus, we’d begin to restore our alliances, get out of the business of sucking up to the “Muslim World,” and champion democracy promotion and human rights.) But that is for 2012. Step one is voting for non-statists who won’t roll over and play dead whenever Obama pushes for the next radical expansion of government.

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Re: Overdosing on Summits

James Taranto, like many of us, wonders what in the world another health-care summit is going to accomplish. He writes:

It seems unlikely to yield bipartisan health-care legislation, since both the White House and congressional Republicans seem so dug in. One could imagine that Obama hopes to best the Republicans in the televised debate, thus turning public opinion against them as “obstructionists.” But all indications are that the GOP is on the right side of public opinion in obstructing ObamaCare, and it’s hard to imagine this “summit” turning things around and persuading moderate Democrats that enacting this monstrosity is their way toward re-election.

He considers whether this is a devious plan to pave the way for divided government, a very real possibility after the 2010 congressional elections. Is it possible that “Obama is drawing attention away from the Democratic congressional leadership, which has been the proximate cause, if not the original source, of so many of his problems”? Well, Obama has been cutting out congressional Democrats of late — making headlines with his question-and-answer session with House Republicans, for example. Taranto speculates that divided government would mark an improvement for Obama’s political fortunes, “better for the president than being tethered to Harry Pelosi and Nancy Reid. Party loyalty precludes Obama from campaigning openly for divided government, but as you watch his actions in the coming months, ask yourself if they aren’t consistent with a desire to be free of the constraints of one-party rule.”

All that, however, supposes that there’s an inner dealmaker, a compromiser waiting to spring forth from Obama. But if that’s the case, why not do it now? He could reverse course on his increasingly toxic anti-terrorism policies, shove health care to the side, put forth his own jobs bill with tax cuts (does this president ever send legislation to the Hill?), embrace congressional sanctions on Iran (crippling, not itsy-bitsy ones), and give up on some of his more absurd and extreme nominees. He could triangulate before the deluge in November, not after. Yet he doesn’t. One supposes that’s because he remains tethered not only to Reid and Pelosi but also to the Left’s dogma.

Divided government benefited Bill Clinton because he had the street smarts and intellectual flexibility (as well as a craving for approval from Middle America) to shift to the Center of the political spectrum. But does Obama have it in him to work with a Republican Congress, reel in spending, drop the criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism, and embrace real pro-growth measures? We’ve seen no evidence of it.

So we return to Taranto’s original query — why another useless summit? Karl Rove comes closer to the mark, I think, when he observes that “Mr. Obama’s Feb. 25 meeting is not about hammering out a bipartisan consensus. It is part theater and part Chicago-style pressure politics.” This, after all, is what Obama does. He lurches from one speech or rally or dog-and-pony show to another, convinced that if we just see and hear more of him, he will prevail and that he can embarrass his opposition, whom he holds in low regard. He holds summits because he lacks governance skills or interest in crafting reasonable legislation that a broad cross-section of Americans can embrace and that would require true compromise with his opponents.

And frankly, another summit gives the media something to focus on other than Obama’s utter lack of accomplishment. That’s as good a reason as any to hold another one of these. Who knows — maybe Chris Matthews will get his tingle back.

James Taranto, like many of us, wonders what in the world another health-care summit is going to accomplish. He writes:

It seems unlikely to yield bipartisan health-care legislation, since both the White House and congressional Republicans seem so dug in. One could imagine that Obama hopes to best the Republicans in the televised debate, thus turning public opinion against them as “obstructionists.” But all indications are that the GOP is on the right side of public opinion in obstructing ObamaCare, and it’s hard to imagine this “summit” turning things around and persuading moderate Democrats that enacting this monstrosity is their way toward re-election.

He considers whether this is a devious plan to pave the way for divided government, a very real possibility after the 2010 congressional elections. Is it possible that “Obama is drawing attention away from the Democratic congressional leadership, which has been the proximate cause, if not the original source, of so many of his problems”? Well, Obama has been cutting out congressional Democrats of late — making headlines with his question-and-answer session with House Republicans, for example. Taranto speculates that divided government would mark an improvement for Obama’s political fortunes, “better for the president than being tethered to Harry Pelosi and Nancy Reid. Party loyalty precludes Obama from campaigning openly for divided government, but as you watch his actions in the coming months, ask yourself if they aren’t consistent with a desire to be free of the constraints of one-party rule.”

All that, however, supposes that there’s an inner dealmaker, a compromiser waiting to spring forth from Obama. But if that’s the case, why not do it now? He could reverse course on his increasingly toxic anti-terrorism policies, shove health care to the side, put forth his own jobs bill with tax cuts (does this president ever send legislation to the Hill?), embrace congressional sanctions on Iran (crippling, not itsy-bitsy ones), and give up on some of his more absurd and extreme nominees. He could triangulate before the deluge in November, not after. Yet he doesn’t. One supposes that’s because he remains tethered not only to Reid and Pelosi but also to the Left’s dogma.

Divided government benefited Bill Clinton because he had the street smarts and intellectual flexibility (as well as a craving for approval from Middle America) to shift to the Center of the political spectrum. But does Obama have it in him to work with a Republican Congress, reel in spending, drop the criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism, and embrace real pro-growth measures? We’ve seen no evidence of it.

So we return to Taranto’s original query — why another useless summit? Karl Rove comes closer to the mark, I think, when he observes that “Mr. Obama’s Feb. 25 meeting is not about hammering out a bipartisan consensus. It is part theater and part Chicago-style pressure politics.” This, after all, is what Obama does. He lurches from one speech or rally or dog-and-pony show to another, convinced that if we just see and hear more of him, he will prevail and that he can embarrass his opposition, whom he holds in low regard. He holds summits because he lacks governance skills or interest in crafting reasonable legislation that a broad cross-section of Americans can embrace and that would require true compromise with his opponents.

And frankly, another summit gives the media something to focus on other than Obama’s utter lack of accomplishment. That’s as good a reason as any to hold another one of these. Who knows — maybe Chris Matthews will get his tingle back.

Read Less




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