Before he was elected, I made four predictions about what an Obama regime would be like. I think that, unfortunately, I was more or less right on all counts. I say "unfortunately" because none of them predicted good things for him or the country. In order, they were:
1. Get ready for four years of grovelling leader-worship on the part of a significant part of the population. Of the four predictions, this is the one that seems most likely to be wrong. As his approval ratings sag, it isn't easy to make a case that people are worshiping this man, and I do have to admit that it's been a while since I have heard anyone describe him as "brilliant." I no longer know that "worship" is the right word, but there is a significant part of the population that seems to me to be irrationally attached to him: I am referring to the young (roughly age 18-30). The individual mandate in Obama's health care reform bill, if enacted, would blatantly exploit them, forcing them to buy a lavish insurance plan that the young and healthy do not need, on which they will lose money, in order to pay for other people's care. This means benefiting one group at the expense of another: in a word, exploitation. And yet the young still support him.
2. Get ready for an orgy of political correctness. One of the more absurd examples of this: Last March, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford made this seemingly sensible criticism of the Obama stimulus spendorama: "What you're doing is buying into the notion that if we just print some more money that we don't have and send it to different states, we'll create jobs. If that's the case, why isn't Zimbabwe a rich place?" House Majority Whip James Clyburn responded that this analogy is "very troubling" and "beyond the pale" because the dictator of Zimbabwe, Howard Mugabe, is black. A racist sub-text, he seemed to be saying, was the only reason he could think of why someone would mention Zimbabwe in discussing potentially inflationist policies.
3. Get ready for a divided and angry country. Boy, I sure called that one right. Just today, Gallup pronounced Obama the most divisive first-year president since they began keeping records of such things.
4. Get ready to watch at least a year of on the job training. His election began the fourth "progressive" era in American politics, the others being the ones associated with Roosevelt-Taft-Wilson, FDR, and Kennedy-Johnson. The first three created a large number of new institutions, from the Federal Reserve System to Medicare. For better or worse, they changed America profoundly. The Obama era created no new institutions, and so far has left no enduring long-term legacy other than a warp-speed increase in the national debt. This era now seems to be over, which would make it by far the briefest of the four. I think the reason for that is fairly simple, and completely Obama's fault: While the rest of the country was obsessed with the economy, he wasted time and energy on two issues that professors and grad students think are extremely important, but almost no one else does: medical care and global warming. The result was a collision with the voters, which eroded the enormous power he had when he took office. This was a rookie mistake. A year ago, he could have done anything he wanted, provided it was half-reasonable and well-executed. By now, he has frittered that opportunity away and will have to govern as a normal president, practicing politics as the art of the possible.