Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Britain's Financial Times - " This election is about disaffection in the centre – and the effort to tell Mr Obama, “Enough.”

The Brits are a prgamatic people and they like to speak " Truth to the Power" with the Queen's English...I say Old Boy, would you be kind enough to tell POTUS enough already??

To quote the Doctor who witnesses the destruction of "The Bridge over the River Kwai" at the end of the movie by the same title, " Madness ! Madness! "

Obama can blame the whining left
By Clive Crook

Published: October 31 2010 15:51

Polls can be wrong, but if they are right the Democrats will get their heads handed to them in Tuesday’s midterm election. If the party loses control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate too, President Barack Obama’s administration will be forced to change course or be stopped in its tracks. Two years after US liberals were celebrating the death of conservatism and the start of a new progressive era, a stunning reversal looks likely.

Tempting fate again, before this has even happened, let us ask where the blame – or credit, if you prefer – lies. Like the financial crisis, an event of this kind has more causes than are actually required to explain it.

First, of course, is the economy. In 2009 Mr Obama inherited an even worse mess than was realised at the time. Two years on, deleveraging has a long way to go; the housing market is not mended; consumers and investors are still anxious; growth in jobs is slow. Unemployment alone, more the fault of the previous administration, indicates a thrashing for the party in power. Right there, for some, you have the whole explanation.

Next is the president himself. Let me count the accusations. He was out of touch. He was too professorial. He was too condescending. He was too black. (Not black enough, thankfully, has gone from the list of defects.) He failed to lead. He deferred too much to Congress. He surrendered to the left. He surrendered to the right. He refused to fight for progressive ideas. He was only interested in progressive ideas.

Messaging and personality aside, critics insist, his policies were wrong. He was too timid, say liberals. He over-reached, say conservatives. Then again, he never really seemed in charge: his policies were not his policies.

Democratic leaders in Congress did him in, acting on a mandate they never had. Republicans did him in, opposing him reflexively and telling lies. The press did him in, reporting those lies as if they were true. Gutless conservative Democrats did him in, by watering down healthcare reform and other measures. The Tea Party did him in, to save the American way of life. The Tea Party did him in, out of pure stupid nativism.

Clive Crook’s blog
From Washington: Clive Crook on the intersection of US politics and economics

Nobody need feel, evidently, that a setback for the Democrats is an unfathomable mystery. My own preferred theories emphasise the economy – which the administration has handled tolerably well in appallingly difficult circumstances – combined with serial political miscalculation. Mr Obama often settled for untidy centrist compromises (on the stimulus, on healthcare), thus disappointing the left; but without ever championing those compromises, causing moderates to wonder where he would stop, given the chance to go further. Offending both segments was an avoidable mistake.

Partly, then, this election is about disaffection in the centre – and the effort to tell Mr Obama, “Enough.” But if this is correct, and the polls turn out to be true, one should pay special tribute to the role the left has played in its own downfall. It did not have to be this way.

Previously, I have argued that Mr Obama’s biggest mistake was to worry more about consoling morbidly dissatisfied Democrats than about keeping the centrists who voted for him in 2008 on side. Campaigning ahead of the midterms, he made it clearer than before that this was his priority. Every speech, every appearance, every meet and greet, leaned the same way.

His message to the centre has been: “You say you are worried about the country’s direction? Well, I know you have been under stress. Let’s talk again when I have finished discussing strategy with these public-sector unions, liberal commentators, left-leaning television personalities and progressive bloggers.”

The administration could plead it had no choice. It had to turn out the base. Pleasing swing voters, if this could even be done, would be no use if committed Democrats did not vote. Tactically, it was better to prioritise as he did. As a matter of electoral arithmetic, I disagree, but the dilemma was real enough.

In any event, suppose that the Democratic base had not been sulking. Suppose it saw, for example, that persisting with a historic healthcare reform was politically challenging in the middle of an economic crash. Suppose it granted that radically overhauling a health system – some 20 per cent of the US economy – that many Americans rather like was a lot to take on. Suppose it was impressed that Mr Obama did it anyway, and was ready to go further.

Supposing those hopelessly implausible things, Mr Obama’s midterm strategy could have been different. Sure of the loyalty of the base, he could have addressed himself to the anxious middle, defended his policies as centrist compromises (which they were), and told the country (as he did in 2008) that its concerns were his concerns. In this alternative universe, he would have had his base and at least a shot at bringing the centre back.

So credit please where it is due. The whining utopian left has a very full schedule of despising Republicans and the idiots and scoundrels (a little over half the country) who keep voting for them. Yet it can always find time to attack its own team, cry and complain, and demand to be patted on the head. The left’s role in Tuesday’s elections should not go unacknowledged.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010

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