Regardless, I think that yesterday’s one year anniversary of President Barack H. Obama in office warrants some reflection, especially considering that I was an outspoken Obama supporter during the election. Now, one year later, I think it is safe to say that I got one thing right and one thing very wrong.
What I got right was that Obama’s victory was going to be a blessing in disguise for the Republicans.
But if I were a Republican, I wouldn’t fret too much (unless I was running for reelection tomorrow [Election Day, November 4, 2008]). Remember 1992? Bill Clinton was in the White House and the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton was unable to pass any significant legislation. Two years later, the Republican Revolution took control over the Senate and the House for the first time in 40 years, as well as big gains in state legislatures and governorships around the country. That’s right, Americans love divided government. It took a little longer for this to happen to George W. Bush, but the same thing eventually happened to the Republican dominated Congress in the 2006 elections.
What does this mean for Republicans? My guess is that the Democrats will have big congressional victories in state and federal elections tomorrow and if Obama also wins, Americans will once again show their preference for divided government in the 2010 midterm elections. If on the other hand Obama loses, we’ll have divided government with a Republican presidency and Democratic Congress, and no tangible incentive to vote Republicans back into government.
In other words, all Republicans have to do until 2010 is say no to everything coming from the White House, call the president a socialist like its the 1950s, create a legislative stalemate, and voilà, the Republicans will see congressional victories all over the country. But don’t forget that in 1994, President Clinton’s popularity didn’t rise until the Democrats lost their congressional majority and the Republicans thereafter became the fall guys for all of the country’s ills. So in an ironic turn of fait, what is good for Republicans and bad for the Democrats in 2010 – Republicans regaining congressional seats — may be the key to Obama’s reelection in 2012. Americans do love their divided government.
Now to what I got horribly wrong. Back when debating whether Obama’s early choices for cabinet officers would lead to change or was simply recycling the old institutional players, I wishfully argued that unlike Clinton who surrounded himself with his Arkansas boys or Carter who failed as an outsider, Obama was “concentrating not so much on looking like change but on who was most capable of implementing the necessary changes.” Guys like Rahm Emmanuel (who my uncle Charlie had warned me against from day one), Leon Panetta, Geitner, and Summers were supposed to be the insiders who knew how to play ball and get the president’s job done.
But instead of zealously pushing for the president’s mandates, these pro-bowl insiders have done little more than insure the inside status quo. Who would have thought you couldn’t teach an old dog new tricks? So instead of real change you can believe in, we have had a full year of more of the same. On almost every initiative and campaign promise of change, President Obama and his team have – quite to the contrary of the Republican cries of socialism – moved far to the right. There has been absolutely nothing progressive or even remotely liberal in any of the Administration’s actions to date. I defy anyone who voted for change — or even those who voted against Obama’s alleged radicalism — to signal a single area where Obama has not caved. Continue reading
Filed under Essays, Obama 44