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...
Much more follows.