Saturday, November 6, 2010

Two Years Gone: An Election Punditry Checklist

In the coming days I’ll have some original thoughts on what’s coming up in the next two years and beyond. Mark your calendars.

Right now, though, I think it’s worthwhile to look back on one of the most rapid political collapses in anyone’s memory. This went far beyond the usual mid-term corrections in legislative balance. This election meant something. Something good, in my opinion, but if you don’t think so, OK. You’ve got a couple of years to see whether the voters like what they’ve wrought, or not.

What follows is not particularly original. One pundit or another (including Your Cool Hot Center) has said one or more of these things at one time or another. I’m in agreement with most of the conventional wisdom on the reasons for the spanking the Dems took on November 2. With so many plausible explanations, it is small wonder that they summed to nudge the pendulum so far from where it was in November 2008.

Think back to the avalanche of goodwill that accompanied President Obama into office. A lot of that goodwill was from folks like me who didn’t vote for him, but who admired him in many respects and hoped – maybe even assumed – that he was shrewd enough not to attempt to govern from the far left where he had resided throughout his legislative career and before.

And a lot of that goodwill came from – yep, the mainstream media.

Two years later, his coalition has evaporated, he is personally unpopular, his legislative majorities are gone (I know, the Dems still have a tiny majority, but if you were a Democratic senator up for election two or four years from now, how would you be voting?), employers won’t hire, Afghanistan festers.

How did it go so wrong so fast for this brilliant, charismatic figure of true historical significance?

Oh, it’s not so hard to figure, really.

          -- The President and Congress began immediately to promote and enact a well left-of-center, big-government, union-gaga, tax-and-spend, redistributionist Euro-model agenda. The public perceived it clearly and rejected it.  Check. The President has already rejected this explanation, stating instead that there was a failure of communication. I hope he keeps on thinking this, because it’s risible nonsense. The guy was on the teevee almost every day. It became a joke at our office; we have CNN on in the lobby and every time I’d walk through, there he’d be, promoting his agenda to one friendly audience or another.

It was just a real damned bad message. And, of course, you have Nancy Pelosi saying that the contents of the healthcare act could not be disclosed and that it had to be enacted before people would see what’s in it. Well, this might be a failure of communication – only problem is, the more people found out about what was really in the thing – that is, the more accurate communication the public received -- the less they liked it. Nope, there was no failure either (i) of communication other than a failure to tell the truth about the programs, or (ii) of voter understanding.

Which reminds me: I would ask those who believe that voters were misinformed or underinformed, or who misunderstood the information they received either because they’re dumb or because they got their news from Fox News or the Drudge Report – what is your view of the status of their intelligence, information, and understanding at such time as they handed the Democrats an very impressive victory a mere two years previously? Was the uncritical and even fawning Obama coverage by the mainstream media during the election (and don’t you dare try to deny it if you hope to maintain a molecule of credibility) your idea of accurate informing of the public? They were informed and smart two years ago but ignorant and dumb now? (And by the way, Fox News and Drudge were as popular then as they are now.) I need to write about this foxnewsphobia some day, but surely it must be clear at this point that Fox News whips the daylights out of its competitors (and the Drudge Report whips the daylights out of Huffington Post and and the like) because their reportage corresponds more closely with what their viewers perceive as reality than does the output of the now-suspended Keith Olberman, the clownish Chris Matthews, NPR, Katie Couric, David Gregory, the New York Times, and so on ad infinitim? (And I’m not a big fan of O’Reilly/Hannity/Fox & Friends.)

          -- The Democrats misunderstood their 2008 election victory as a rejection of conservatism, when it was actually (i) a rejection of Bush for his own abandonment of conservative principles (like GHW Bush before him), combined with (ii) some Bushy personality and communications deficiencies, (iii) a very weak Republican ticket, and especially (iv) a misleading media and self-portrayal of a charismatic, eloquent, historically-inevitable black guy.  Check.

          -- Voters felt betrayed; Obama ran as a bipartisan moderate but was neither from the get-go.  Check. He and his acolytes were so impressed by his margin and the tsunami of praise that swept him into office that he figured voters weren’t interested in him compromising the left agenda he’d coyly concealed during the campaign. This was error.

          -- The President fibs. He is mendacious about many things, including (probably) his personal composition of Dreams of My Father, but most vividly about the health care bill and the existence of “shovel-ready jobs” ready to be stimulated by the stimulus.  Check.

          -- The Democrats were thuggish in enacting their unpopular stuff, strongarming it through Congress using legislative logrolling that crossed the line into spectacularly brazen bribery.   Check. Special provisions favoring five states, unions, trial (plaintiffs’) lawyers. Obama was elected to change the way Washington did business, but his allies put on the most astoundingly craven display of legislative corruption in recent memory to enact the healthcare bill.

          -- Joe Biden.   Check. The gift that keeps on giving, although Nancy Pelosi is giving him a run for his money. Tell me true: Hypothetical: Big-time terrorist attack on the US. President drops dead of a heart attack. You would prefer the vice-president be: (a) Joe Biden or (b) Dick Cheney. Mm-hmm.

          -- The President’s overseas apology/bowing tours exhibited his discomfort with the idea of American exceptionalism that most voters rightly embrace.   Check.

          -- The President doesn’t believe strongly in the international Islamist terror threat.   Check.

          -- The President doesn’t believe strongly in the dangers represented by illegal immigration from Mexico. Check and double-check. With Mexico dissolving into criminal anarchy, and with that culture osmotically creeping into the American border states, the Obama administration sues Arizona for its efforts to do something about it. Nice.

          -- This historic black racial-healer president tolerated, if not promoted, a racist Justice Department under Eric Holder, and appointed a self-racially-identified candidate, and a mediocre one at that (Sonia Sotomayor), to the Supreme Court.   Check. The Republicans will continue to press for an investigation of Holder’s disgraceful stewardship of Justice. And now we’re stuck with Sotomayor. Just this week a memorandum to the President from constitutional and Supreme Court expert Laurence Tribe (a liberal, by the way, who has long hoped for an appointment to the High Court himself) surfaced in which he advised his former student Obama respecting this self-proclaimed “wise Latina”: “Bluntly put," Tribe wrote the President, "she's not nearly as smart as she seems to think she is[.]”  But nothing was going to stop POTUS from appointing a Hispanic judge.

          -- The President dithered for months over what to do in Afghanistan, and ended up neither getting out nor giving his generals what they wanted.  Check. In fairness, no one is entirely sure what to do in Afghanistan at this point. But Obama, after having identified this as Job One during the campaign, seems to have lost interest.

          -- Voters did not like it when the President, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, John Kerry, and other Democrats repeatedly talked down to them, accusing them of narrow-mindedness, misunderstanding, misperception of their own interests, ignorance, fearfulness, rejecting of science (!), and the like.   Check. This is a variation of “we didn’t communicate our programs well enough.” What they really want to say is – hell, what they actually did say was, in one form or another -- “the American voter has not understood our communications – or has unreasonably declined to accept our assurances – on the benefits of government takeover of healthcare, bailouts, cap-and-trade, increased regulation, promotion of trade unionism, etc.”   Unstated finish:  because they're too dumb, afraid, etc.  Well, sure, sometimes people are dumb.  But they almost always know when they're being insulted.

          -- The President vacationed and golfed even more frequently than recent presidential champs in this regard.  Check. The President and FLOTUS definitely love to party and vacation. Can’t blame them for that, really. But in the midst of an economic downturn, it just doesn’t play well.

          -- Barack Obama isn’t all that. Charm and eloquence emanating largely from those twin slanty transparent screens that seem always to show up at his public appearances.   Sorry, no check. The President remains a very impressive man in many respects.

And I’ll pick up with this thought in the next article.

Overall, however, not so terribly surprising that the electorate got out the brooms.


  1. On a personal level, Obama may be as charming and eloquent as ever, but unless he's surrounded by carefully screened supporters he has pretty much lost the ability to move crowds with his words. And he isn't able to ad lib with any sincerity to save his life.

  2. Sorry, Steverino, but I've met the man and he is just an empty suit. If his father had not been black, the only way he'd ever get in the White
    House would be on a public tour.

  3. How about this? The attention span of the American people is about two minutes. They will continue to vote against the party in power no matter what they do until the economy comes around. In other words, it's still the economy, stupid.