Friday, January 29, 2010

I Was Right about Obama, Alas

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.


Chris said...

I can't help but feel that most of these predictions could be made about any incoming president and you'd have a pretty decent chance of being right.

Numbers 2 & 3 have been in the works for years now and Obama had little to do with their proliferation at this point (or he had no more hand in it than every other piece of the political game). As for 4, well, that's just how it works most of the time.

The only thing that's left is number 1. Obviously my personal experiences are no more valid or representative of the country than yours, but all of the young people I know are pissed at him.

Personally, I was wary from the start so I don't have much to be disappointed in, but I have some awfully upset friends at this point.

I guess what I'm saying is let's not pick at the guy unless there's a specific reason (and I'm sure you could find some more valid ones). The points you made here are criticisms of our times and politics more than our President, at least to my mind. Criticizing him for the sake of criticizing just doesn't feel productive to me.

Lester Hunt said...

What I meant by 2 is that PC arguments would be used to shield BHO from criticism. For obvious reasons, he is the only pres. of whom this could possibly have been true. As to three, divisiveness, I can only re-present the Gallup numbers. Along with Bush II and FDR, I'd say he is one of the three most divisive presidents since Lincoln, whose election caused Americans to kill each other. As to 4, surely he is the most inexperienced chief executive since Kennedy (see my earlier post on that - link in first paragraph).

Also, I should say that only #4 is really a criticism of him. The divisiveness is surely a side-effect of the fact that his coming to power coincides with the filibuster-proof congress (which seems to be controlled by maniacs). The PC stuff isn't his fault at all. I like to think he would discourage that sort of silliness if he could, but what can he do?

Anonymous said...

I suspect that but for 9-11, George W. Bush would have more divise than President Obama. Prior to 9-11 folks who voted for Gore were still very upset about the way that President Bush got the job. Obviously, the attack on America caused people of all political stripes to, at least initially, support him more than they previously had.
Moreover, the reliance on the Gallup poll is problematic as it comes into existence after several of the more divise presidents in our history. As you correctly note, Lincoln must be first. However, both Adams (especially John Quincy) came to office with the country bitterly divided over them. The is true for Hayes.
Using Representative Clybourn as an example to butress prediction number 2 is a bit of a canard. As a survivor of soem pretty horrific treatment during the Civil Rights Movement, the representative is bound to view things in a racial way that others are not. I don't believe the "race card" is being played to protect President Obama from criticism.
As to point 4, the survey you cite shows that in January 2008 (when the President was campaigning), 69% of Americans polled wanted something done about health care. This was the third highest priority after the economy. Granted it fell to fifth by January 2009, but two of the items above it (improve the job situation and strengthen the economy) are the same. Suggesting that it was not important to many people is simply false.

Chris said...

Alright, I appreciate the clarification.

I'm with you on 4, by the way. Before he officially announced his run I was hoping he'd wait a few more years until he had some actual experience under his belt, but that clearly didn't fit into the business plan.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Lester Hunt said...


Thanks for dropping by!


Yes, maybe Hayes belongs on the list, if only because of the horrible election debacle. Note though that he promised to step down after one term in the interests of national unity and did so.

BTW, there's a possibility that the Repubs bought the Demo's acquiescence by promising to end Reconstruction before it was finished -- more divisiveness-avoidance. Which goes to show you that sometimes divisiveness should not be avoided.

I cited the Clyburn case only because it was so extreme. I thought on this point giving evidence was no longer necessary. There was after all a steady stream of this nonsense all throughout 2009. Throughout the Spring, the press relentlessly tracked down the (actually quite rare) signs at tea parties that might have had a racial subtext and published them in order to discredit the movement. In the summer many people insisted the town hall anger was largely racist -- including prominent people like Maureen Dowd, Jimmy Carter and (shockingly, because he is usually so rational) Bill Cosby.

Eventually, even the Repubs started doing their own variation of it, with their silly over-reaction to Harry Reid's comment about Obama's not having a "negro dialect."

Now Americans know what it's like to be in a PC university: somehow, scary and goofy at the same time.

Lester Hunt said...


I forgot to comment on the Pew report thing. By "extremely important" I meant "most important or nearly so." I don't think eighth place is close enough to the top to be characterized that way. Also, note that global warming is dead last, in 21st place.

Anonymous said...

To me, Obama is the gift that will keep on giving. The liberal in me voted fo him because I did want to see an historical wrong about race; righted by his election. The conservative in me is happy because the black opposition can no longer sqwalk that every problem in the country is racialy based.

I thought his appointment of Hilary after readin Doris Kearns Goodwing book, "Team of Rivals" and initial appointment of CNN correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta showed he is a bit impulsive and plays up to media stereotypes.

Probably if he chose Lieberman as his running mate, I would have voted for McCain. However Eli's claim that Palin could not handle the stress of the Gov's job and her inability to perform non-scripted appearances confirm she was not qualified for the position.