The Relevant Progressive President gambit
I think Toby Harnden of the UK Telegraph best captures what is going to happen with Obama and the Democrats as we go forward. A couple of quotes say it best. However, first Harnden addresses the Obama press conference following a stinging rejection of Democrats and the fact that Obama seemed clueless about the cause of the defeat – or, if not clueless, at least not prepared to accept the real reason for the defeat:
The one thing Obama was not prepared to admit was that his policies, which have led to a massive expansion of government power and the national debt, could in any way be at fault. The problem with health care reform, he said, was that the process used to achieve it was "an ugly mess" – no mention that it was hugely unpopular and pushed through on a partisan vote without a single Republican legislator’s support.
The reason that is important is what it portends for the future under Obama. Harnden recalls Clinton’s reaction to the losses he suffered and how he decided, almost instinctively, to move to the center and “counterpunch” from there.
Obama is not about to move to the centre. Whereas Clinton was an instinctive "Third Way" centrist from the South who had wandered too far Left, Obama is a standard-issue liberal of the type found in Ivy League commons rooms. Nothing in his career indicates he is ready to cut deals with political opponents. He is sure what he believes is right; if you don’t agree with him, he pities you for being so slow to understand.
It is his innate arrogance that will be his undoing. He is going to try, as did Truman, to blame a Republican Congress for lack of progress. Truman actually had a Republican Congress and so the strategy worked. As I’ve said in the past, not gaining the Senate is almost a blessing in disguise for the GOP because the same sort of strategy will not work for Obama.
Harnden also makes a great point about the Tea Party and how establishment liberals are ready (and happy) to dismiss them because they “failed” to elect all their candidates.
The defeat of candidates like Christine O’Donnell of Delaware and Sharron Angle of Nevada has helped fuel a complacent Washington consensus that the Tea Party failed. Never mind that his grassroots anti-tax, small-government "constitutional conservatism" movement provided the energy and momentum behind the biggest congressional election victory in 62 years.
The true nature of the Tea Party is much better represented by the likes of newly-minted senators Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Rand Paul than the frankly wacky O’Donnell and Angle. It was hardly surprising that a spontaneous, chaotic movement managed to throw up some oddball candidates. The Tea Party is likely to readjust accordingly next time.
What the Tea Parties are likely to do now is begin the hunt for suitable candidates that reflect their principles and don’t carry the baggage of the insurgent candidates they were stuck with in various races. The left has wanted to dismiss this movement from its inception and is ready to do so again right now. Big mistake.
But again, the main point Harnden makes is one I agree with – Obama doesn’t accept the reasons for defeat and is unlikely to change in any substantial way to address the new reality:
Obama believes he can get by on Being Barack Obama. Last Tuesday was a setback like nothing else he had experienced in life and it appears to have left his enormous sense of self-assurance undiminished.
A majority of Americans voted against Obama’s agenda that day and Republicans dearly want to make him history. It is far too soon to write off Obama’s chances of re-election but his rhetoric of bipartisanship and forging consensus has been shown to be a sham, leaving his Left-wing core exposed.
But the first step to keeping him in the hole he has dug for himself is a counter-intuitive one. Republicans intend to capitalise on Obama’s vanity and highlight his default ideology and determination to push "progress".
He is about to become the Relevant Progressive President.
Exactly. The GOP must pound on and point out the “progressive” ideologue that is the president. They must keep him relevant in that way so they can run against his liberal ideology in 2012. Obama gives every indication, at least at this point, that he’ll cooperate. And such cooperation, given the results of this election, indicate a one-term presidency.
And that’s a good thing.