Monday, October 26, 2009
America’s Obama Obsession - Anatomy of a Passing Hysteria
Victor Davis Hanson
For 30 months the nation has been in the grip of a certain Obama obsession, immune to countervailing facts, unwilling to face reality, and loath to break the spell. But like all trances, the fit is passing, and we the patient are beginning to appreciate how the stupor came upon us, why it lifted, and what its consequences have been.
HOW OBAMA WON
Barack Obama was elected rather easily because, in perfect-storm fashion, five separate trends coalesced last autumn.
1) Obama was eloquent, young, charismatic — and African-American. He thus offered voters a sense of personal and collective redemption, as well as appealing to the longing for another JFK New Frontier figure. An image, not necessarily reality, trumped all.
2) After the normal weariness with eight years of an incumbent party and the particular unhappiness with Bush, the public was amenable to an antithesis. Bush was to be scapegoat, and Obama the beginning of the catharsis.
3) Obama ran as both a Clintonite centrist and a no-red-state/no-blue-state healer who had transcended bitter partisanship. That assurance allowed voters to believe that his occasional talk of big change was more cosmetic than radical.
4) John McCain ran a weak campaign that neither energized his base nor appealed to crossover independents. McCain turned off conservatives; many failed to give money, and some even stayed home on election day. Meanwhile, the media and centrists who used to idolize McCain’s non-conservative, maverick status found Obama the more endearing non-conservative maverick.
5) The September 2008 financial panic turned voters off Wall Street and the wealthy, and allowed them to connect unemployment and their depleted home equity and 401(k) retirement plans with incumbent Republicans. In contrast, they assumed that Obama, as the anti-Bush, would not do more bailouts, more stimuli, and more big borrowing.
Take away any one of those factors, and Obama might well have lost. Imagine what might have happened had Obama been a dreary old white guy like John Kerry; or had Bush’s approvals been over 50 percent; or had Obama run on the platform he is now governing on; or had McCain crafted a dynamic campaign; or had the panic occurred in January 2009 rather than September 2008. Then the trance would have passed, and Obama, the Chicago community organizer and three-year veteran of the U.S. Senate, would have probably lost his chance at remaking America.
I note all this at length because Obama seems to act as if this right-center country — one that polls oppositely to his positions on most of the major issues (deficits, spending, nationalized health care, homeland security, Guantanamo, cap-and-trade, etc.) — has given him a mandate for a degree of change not seen in nearly 80 years.
Apparently, Team Obama figured that with sizable majorities in both the House and the Senate, Obama would snap his fingers, Congress daily would pass bills redefining America, and Obama would stay in perpetual campaign mode to hope and change the country to accept his agenda. Governing would be like campaigning, as audiences fainted hearing the details of a 1,500-page health-care bill or of ever more sins from America’s past.
But, after just a few months in office, that proved not to be the case. Just as a number of planets had to line up precisely to allow an inexperienced hard-left ideologue to be elected president, so there would have had to be a similar configuration to allow him to govern successfully.
1) Obama had to match his unity rhetoric with brotherly action. In fact, he has done the opposite. At one time or another, Obama and his supporters have, rather scurrilously, insulted doctors, insurers, the police, tea-partiers and town-hallers, opponents of his health-care plan, non-compliant members of the media, and a host of other groups as either greedy, dishonest, treasonous, unpatriotic, moblike, racist, or in general worthy of disrespect.
Fewer and fewer Americans now believe that Obama — after just nine months of governance — is a uniter. In Obama’s world, doctors carve out children’s tonsils for profit, racist morons rant at legislators about losing their private health care, and trillions in borrowed money must be paid back by the greedy rich whose capital was unearned in the first place.
When his base supporters lambaste him for softness, they are lamenting his inability to become an effective partisan — not a lack of partisanship in general. In surreal fashion, liberals demand that the ideologue Obama become more ideological precisely at the time his ideologically driven agenda is souring millions of non-ideological Americans.
2) His opposition is no longer ossified, but decentralized and grass roots. One of the oddest proofs of that statement is the sudden leftist furor at tea parties, town halls, the media, dissent, and free speech. As long as Obama was opposed by calcified Republicans in Congress, there was no real danger to him. But once the opposition proved populist, panicked liberal elites started demonizing populism — and Obama now finds himself opposed to the popular grievance-mongering that was once the mother’s milk of our Chicago organizer’s existence.
3) Obama campaigned on the notion that even if voters might not like his policies, they most assuredly would like him. Even that spell is now lifting. The more the American public gets to know Barack Obama, the less they find him appealing.
On matters racial, their campaign-season unease with his connection to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his toss-offs like “typical white person,” and his stereotyping of rural Pennsylvanians has not been allayed; rather, it has been amplified by Eric Holder’s Justice Department, Obama’s own statement that the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” in arresting Professor Gates, and the use of the race card by prominent Democrats from the likes of Rep. Charles Rangel to Gov. David Paterson of New York.
Much of the newly stirred public suddenly assumes two things from the Obama administration: that the president himself will periodically say something racially insensitive or unwise; and that his supporters will call opponents of his policies racist. If we have wearied of all that in nine months, think what four years of it will do to the public mood.
How to deal with an angry Leftist
From a conservative bookstore proprietor
A woman came in last night looking for a book by some feminist author that I had never heard of before, no big surprise there. So, I look it up in our search engine and the computer says that we might have it in the store. MIGHT have it, not WILL. So I tell her that I can check our inventory and see if it’s there and show her the section it would be in.
“No, that’s fine, I’ll find it myself. I’m going to look around a bit first”
Ten minutes later, as I’m showing another customer to 1984 I run across her in Literature looking around and she barges in to the conversation I’m having with my customer and sneers “Where is the section on Women’s rights?” I tell her again “It’s upstairs and I’ll be happy to take you to it as soon as I am done here.”
“No, I can fine it myself.” Note the lack of a ‘thank you’.
Sooo, as you can probably guess, I end up helping another customer find the Christianity section, which is upstairs, and as we get to the top of the escalator that same woman is standing in the middle of Independent Readers YELLING “Is there SOMEONE ACTUALLY WORKING here who can HELP ME!!!!”
Once again (because we were slammed with customers) I offer to show her the section and she is bitching the whole way about how the women’s studies section should be near the front of the store because it’s so important and how this author’s book should be on display because she’s doing a signing tour in California right now and she’s a NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST!!
Well, we get there and we have no copies. She flips her sh*t over it and repeats how wonderful this writer is and how we should all be required to read her crap and then says “Why don’t you have 900 copies here?!?! You have plenty of room! Her book should be displayed all over the store to inspire women everywhere about what they can do!”
I had to. I know it was wrong but what can you do when the set up is that perfect? “Well, ma’am, we were going to but we’re saving that spot for Sarah Palin.”
Where Are the Defenders of Capitalism?
When the “New Deal” is taught in public schools around the nation, students are told that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s big government programs were there to “save capitalism.” And when George W. Bush pushed for bailouts and stimuli at the end of his term, he stated, “I've abandoned free-market principles to save the free-market system.”
Now, Americans have elected a president who has taken the stance that private companies have failed at healthcare, pollution control, automobile manufacturing, banking, and fiscal solvency during this recession. And Barack Obama has threatened a government healthcare takeover, costly cap-and-tax restrictions, and draconian bank regulations along with more bailouts and trillion-dollar, deficit exploding stimuli.
So now the left and Michael Moore are helping Obama bury the free-market system by asking rhetorically, with a clear alternative in mind, “What is the price that America pays for its love of Capitalism?” But the real question should be: “Where are the defenders of capitalism and free-markets?”
Capitalism assumes that markets have “free competition.” That means for a business to succeed, it does so without the help or hindrance of government coercion.
Many of those who blame capitalism for this recession use businessmen and capitalists as their scapegoat. But the truth is, these powerful individuals are anything but champions for the system that has made them rich.
For example, in last week’s Slate column Eliot Spitzer wrote "The chamber [of commerce] remains an unabashed voice for the libertarian worldview that caused the most catastrophic economic meltdown since the Great Depression.” When the truth is, as Timothy P. Carney at the Washington Examiner reports, “The Chamber lobbied for the Great Wall Street Bailout, lobbied for the $787 billion stimulus bill, and supported a bigger Cash-for-Clunkers.”
The unprecedented massive new growth in government has changed “market-entrepreneurs” into “political-entrepreneurs.” In other words, money-hungry businessmen can do far better lobbying a few politicians with the power to allocate billions (now trillions), then trying to please millions of private individuals who each may spend thousands.
In the past, the champions of capitalism become winners by satisfying consumers with products that people want to buy. The apologists for the new big government system become winners by satisfying politicians by delivering bribes and campaign contributions (but, I repeat myself) that directly result in votes.
In short, the real culprit is not true capitalism; it is the political “pay-to-play” perversion of capitalism. The reason big government destroys productivity and wealth is that it causes efficient resources and capital to be shifted towards political favoritism and lobbying. Every single dollar that is spent taking a congressman out to dinner or a junket (excuse me, “fact-finding trip”), could have been used to expand production or create a new and exciting product.
During the Great Depression it was Objectivist Ayn Rand and economist Ludwig von Mises that stepped up to the plate to defend capitalism. So, where are our defenders of capitalism today? Well, you needn’t bother sending Diogenes to Wall Street.
I have put up a fair bit up on my Paralipomena blog recently, for those who find what I post there interesting. I don't call myself a Greenie but I must say that my latest post there has got me fuming. I also wonder whether anyone looks at my Homepage (Backup here). Some of the links on it have been dead for over a year and nobody has mentioned it to me so I gather that it must be pretty boring. Anyway I have just updated all the links on it (I think and hope) so it is at least fully usable again.
Reality: It's a bitch: "The discussion began with our Left-leaning friend saying that we need stringent government regulation of, well just about everything, in order to protect the Little Guy from rapacious Big Boys with lots of power. To do this we had to give the State lots and lots of power to counter-balance the Big Guys out to hurt the Little Guy. It's a pretty standard argument from the Left. My reply was what I would call Libertarianism 101. Simply put, I argued that history has shown that when the State is given such powers it is rarely used to protect Little Guy. Instead Mr. Politician conspires with Big Guy to use the new fangled powers in order to make life for Mr. Politician and Big Guy better at the expense of Little Guy."
The trouble with unions: "The underlying trouble with unionization is its ability to capture government, particulary when that industry is so protectected by the government. Ironically many on the left - often quite rightly - disparage the relationship between big business and government, but they also need to accept that many unions behave no better. The problem in both instances is not the survival and expansionist interests of business and unions, but the power of the government to regulate and discriminate."
And the worst airport in the world is in Delhi? No: In London: "Heathrow airport has again been voted the worst airport in the world, according to a global poll of airline passengers. The survey of members of Priority Pass, the world's leading independent airport lounge programme, included responses from 160 countries. The respondents to the annual survey have taken, on average, 17 flights in the past year. It is a repeat of last year's result when Heathrow was still recovering from the ill-fated opening of Terminal 5, which saw passengers suffer lengthy flight delays and large numbers of lost bags. “We are working very hard to make every passenger's journey to or from better than the last one, and these figures demonstrate the we are making good progress,” said the airport's chief operating office Mike Brown. “However, the challenge is continuously to raise standards and through our long-term investment strategy, which sees £1 billion spent on facilities and services every year, we are rebuilding an airport of which the UK can be rightly proud." Charles de Gaulle airport, in Paris, was voted second worst, followed by Los Angeles, Frankfurt International and Miami International. Singapore Changi, a perennial favourite, finished top, followed closely by Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok. Amsterdam Schiphol was the pick of Europe's airports."
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc. He has a lot to say this time about the appearance of the British National Party on BBC TV.
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 1:40 AM