Free Markets, Free People

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Underdog Obama – No, really

The campaign that never really stopped to govern is gearing up again and Barack Obama is out there saying things now in an attempt to defuse them and make them “old news” when the election nears.

Like this:

Calling himself an "underdog," President Obama today said the faltering economy is a drag on his presidency and seriously impairing his chances of winning again in 2012.

"Absolutely," he said in response to a question from ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos about whether the odds were against him come November 2012, given the economy. "I’m used to being the underdog. But at the end of the day people are going to ask — who’s got a vision?"

The American people, he conceded, are "not better off" than they were four years ago.

The next thing you know, he’ll try to pass himself off as an “outsider”. 

Here’s the cold, hard truth – no incumbent is really an underdog and especially when that incumbent is President of the United States and owns the bully pulpit.  Oh they’ve certainly lost reelection bids in the past, no question.   But, as is evident now by watching the GOP field of candidates, if Barack Obama is in trouble it is because of Barack Obama, not anyone else.

He understands why – people are indeed not better off than they were four years ago.  But what he doesn’t seem to understand yet is that most Americans have seen his “vision” and aren’t buying.

He seems to think that his grandiloquent rhetoric is going to again save him as he stands before bedazzled crowds and snows them with his “vision”.  Right now, however, his vision has gotten us into $14 trillion of debt, 9.1% unemployment and the distinct probability that the economy will suffer a double dip recession.  He’s made us more energy starved with his policies and he’s taken over a good portion of the economy with his health care law and it appears it will be bending the cost curve up.  Yes, records are a bitch and this time he actually has one.

Not only are we not better off than we were four years ago it appears to be getting even worse.  And Mort Zuckerman, a former Obama supporter has some thoughts on the subject as he discusses why businesses aren’t getting back to the business of growing the economy:

When governments are shown to be powerless or incompetent, ordinary people suddenly realise that their elected officials have neither the understanding, the political power and sometimes not even the will to do what is necessary. In part this is because they are scared of voter backlash. At that point despair and alienation takes control of public opinion and they concentrate on preserving what little of their long-term prospects and savings they can.

This dismal point we have reached today. Confidence in the US government has fallen so far that a recent Gallup poll found only 26 per cent approving the president’s management of the economy. And there is a sense that there are not too many effective tools left in the toolbox of the government.

So what is the Obama vision he plans on selling given Zuckerman’s spot on assessment.  Is he going to sell he has suddenly become competent and his administration has finally figured out how to govern?   That he’s now a leader?   That his ideas aren’t warmed over leftovers that have failed every time they’ve been tried?

No wonder independents are deserting him.

What is Obama’s vision?  Well if what we’ve been hearing from many on the left, it certainly isn’t a liberty lovers idea of utopia, but it appears that desperate times knocks the veneer off the “democratic” left:

One of them, former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, penned a piece this week in the New Republic arguing, as the title says, "Why we need less democracy." Orszag wrote that "the country’s political polarization was growing worse — harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing." His solution? "[W]e need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic."

Orszag’s view is typical of Obama White House alumni. Last year, former auto czar Steve Rattner wrote in his book, "Overhaul," "Either Congress needs to get its act together or we should explore alternatives. … If our country wants to do a better job of solving its problems, it needs to find a way to let talented government officials operate more like they do in the private sector." True to the founding ideals of the progressive movement, both men are suggesting that enlightened technocrats who know best should be allowed to operate the federal government independent of popular will.

Perhaps know-it-all bureaucrats can be forgiven for harboring such contempt for the voting public. But elected officials cannot. That’s why similar comments by Gov. Bev Perdue, D-N.C., are far more troubling. "I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover," Perdue told a Rotary Club gathering in suburban Raleigh this week. "I really hope that someone can agree with me on that."

Perdue’s office at first claimed her comments were made in jest. The subsequent release of the audio conclusively demonstrates otherwise.

For those of you agreeing with Rattner, democracy is a messy business and while there are certainly aspects of the private sector which should be integrated into government, hierarchical management is not one of them.  We don’t work for the government, it is supposed to work for us.  And I damn sure am not going to agree to giving that up for temporary convenience.

But it does sort of give you a righteous peek under the sheep’s clothing and a glimpse of the wolf, doesn’t it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

2012 is gonna be nasty

Mitt Romney is upset that the Obama team is planning to run a negative campaign of personal attacks against him.

Obama has remained personally popular — scoring as high as an 86 percent approval rating in the District of Columbia in a recent Gallup poll. But while he’s personally well-liked, the president’s overall approval rating is 43 percent compared to 48 percent disapproval, according to Gallup.

With that knowledge and the poor economic climate, Politico reported that the Obama campaign has no choice but to give up the 2008 campaign of "hope" and turn negative, portraying the incumbent as "principled" whereas Romney is an "opportunist." 

By the way, going to a DC Poll to prove how well-liked Obama is, seems like a pretty clear case of cherry-picking your polls for a positive result. In any event, there’s more from Politico:

The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job, and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent…

“Unless things change and Obama can run on accomplishments, he will have to kill Romney,” said a prominent Democratic strategist aligned with the White House.

The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”

Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign focused on a now-famous aphorism: "It’s the economy, stupid." It was the top theme of the campaign that carried the Arkansas governor to the White House. Skip forward 20 years, though, and the Obama administration’s campaign can rightfully be characterized with the slogan "It’s anything but the economy, stupid!" Seeking re-election with 9%+ unemployment and sub 2% GDP growth means that the economy is literally the last thing you want to discuss.

In fact, it’s difficult to figure out what, exactly, the Democrats can push as a positive result of the Obama Administration.  His signature achievement, Health Care Reform, remains deeply unpopular. The debt to GDP ratio has risen to 100%—and no doubt will be higher next year. For all his talk about deficit reduction, the president hasn’t actually put forward a written plan, though he has given a number of speeches.  His signature economic reform at the moment appears to be increasing taxes on "the rich", i.e., any family making more than $250,000 in household income. But beyond that is the deeper fear that the social welfare statism that has been the central tenet of the Democratic party for the last 30 years is simply unsustainable.  Not only is it nearly impossible to financially justify any real expansion of social democracy in the US, it’s difficult to see how even the current levels of welfare state spending can be sustained.

For the last three decades, Republicans have made soothing mouth noises about smaller government, while in actual practice, have continued driving the car off the cliff. The main difference between them and the Democrats, is that the Republican establishment has been firm in their refusal to upshift past third gear. On most occasions, anyway. That hasn’t really been particularly helpful. Both Republicans and Democrats in the political class have embraced a set of assumptions that spending increases are baked into the budget baseline, that any reductions in that baseline increase are "cuts", and that the time for financial rectitude—if it ever came—was at some hazy point in the far future.

Sadly, we’ve learned, as Rams coach George Allen used to tell us, that the future is now.

So, now, there’s the rising threat of the TEA Party, and their explicit argument that the welfare state experiment has been a financially disastrous failure, in that, even if one were to stipulate, arguendo, that the Democratic Party’s policies accomplished everything they wished in terms of creating a compassionate society, it would still be doomed to end due to the unsupportable financial burden it imposes. But, of course, while the latter is true, the former certainly isn’t, so there’s declining enthusiasm for continuing to support expensive programs that simply don’t accomplish their stated objectives.

In such an electoral climate, what remains, in the absence of any solid record of accomplishment, growing distrust of government, and financial/economic failure, is simply the will to power. And to maintain that power, destructive personal attacks are just about the only tool left in the Obama campaign toolbox. After all, we’ve already seen the change, and, so far, it hasn’t offered much hope.

The attacks that have been launched on the TEA Party are instructive.  If you can judge the quality of an opponent’s threat by the response it provokes in his enemies, then the TEA Party is enormously threatening to the entrenched political class. So far, they’ve been subjected to accusations of racism, extremist violence, been blamed for the failure of debt ceiling negotiations and the S&P downgrade of US debt, and derided as cranks and "hobbits".  Nearly every political ill has been ascribed to them by the political class—Democrats and establishment Republicans alike. I can only presume that this is because the political establishment perceives them as a threat.

By the same token, any Republican candidate can now expect withering personal attacks in response to any perceived electoral threat to President Obama. It may come from the Obama Campaign. It may come from media surrogates like Tina Brown’s Newsweek, which intentionally ran a cover picture this week whose sole purpose was, apparently, to make Michelle Bachmann look like a loon. It may come from campaign surrogates like SEIU union goons to heckle and disrupt campaign rallies. 

But, there’s no doubt that we’re in for a high level of personal nastiness and invective. This election is not going to be about some minor adjustment to spending, or some trifling adjustment of tax rates, or some nibbling at the edges of the regulatory state.  What is at stake in the 2012 election is the continuation of a world-view; a political philosophy that sees ever-larger government as the cure to whatever ails us. This next election is the first big battle for the survival of that worldview as the majority view of the political class, or the survival of the insurgent TEA party idea that government has become to large, too intrusive, and too expensive, so therefore must be radically reduced. There is little room to compromise between these two visions of government.  Indeed, in most ways, they are worldviews that are mutually exclusive. Over the next decade or so, we are going to learn which of these two views will prevail, and if the US, as presently composed, will remain a united polity.

We are now at a point where the fabric of the Republic is about to be tested as it hasn’t been since the Civil War, and this election is the first major event in that test.

It’s not going to be pretty.

~
Dale Franks
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Does this mean Michael Steele gets his million bucks back?

Dede Scozzafava, who suspended her House campaign earlier this week, in the face of rising discontent from Republican rank and file voters over her candidacy in the conservative NY-23 district, made the following statement this afternoon:

I want to thank you for your support and friendship. Over the past 24 hours, I have had encouraging words sent to my family and me. Many of you have asked me whom you should support on Tuesday.

Since announcing the suspension of my campaign, I have thought long and hard about what is best for the people of this District, and how to answer your questions. This is not a decision that I have made lightly.

You know me, and throughout my career, I have been always been an independent voice for the people I represent. I have stood for our honest principles, and a truthful discussion of the issues, even when it cost me personally and politically. Since beginning my campaign, I have told you that this election is not about me; it’s about the people of this District.

It is in this spirit that I am writing to let you know I am supporting Bill Owens for Congress and urge you to do the same.

So much for being a “lifelong Republican”.