In my first post on the 2010 election I looked back at some of the reasons given for the shocking collapse of President Obama’s coalition. It was fun to revisit the past two years of liberal incomprehension and error, but it did not meet my personal requirement that I offer the Cool Hot Centrist Nation something other than warmed over punditry of others. (I frequently warm over my own punditry.) Herewith, then, some nuggets of what I’m thinking about the next few years and beyond. Quite a bit of it consists of priceless instruction to the Republican Party. Starting with:
Don’t Underestimate Barack Obama. I’ve received criticism from some readers for noting occasionally that the man has some very admirable qualities. His policies are so bad that the temptation is strong to judge him as a bad man through and through. Never mind whether this is ungracious – it’s simply wrong. Barack Obama is smart (see my series on the nature of his intelligence – Part 1 -- Part 2). The Republicans should not take for granted that his ego will not allow him to move to the center, will not allow him to offer compromises to Republicans that they will be unable to decline. I’m not saying that I expect this to happen; I’m not saying that it is likely to happen; I’m saying it’s wrong to assume that it can’t happen because the President lacks the brains to be flexible about his principles. In fact, it is my expe ctation that, at least at first, he will continue to press his academic statist agenda for reasons I have set forth elsewhere.
[Note: This was composed before his recent compromise on taxes. See?]
It is the case that he has squandered a great deal of his personal capital through the exposure of his tendency to dissimulate. But he still cuts an appealing physical figure. He speaks very well off the cuff and from the lectern; his reliance on teleprompters has been overstated because his oratorical skills were overpraised in the past. He has a fine speaking voice – must be the smokes. I’m not being frivolous here – style points count in American politics. In politics everywhere, for that matter. Except maybe China, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Minnesota.
The economy is likely to get better, as the economy almost always does.
And if he runs again (80%) and is renominated (less certain) he will be formidable in debate against any Republican candidate who isn’t highly intelligent and thoroughly prepared, or who lacks his glibness. Excuse me a moment – coughsarahpalincough.
I’m serious. Don’t forget about the debates. We (by this, I mean I and people who don’t want Obama to win in 2012) need someone who is Obama’s equal in intelligence, grasp of policy, self-assurance, and for lack of a better phrase savoir faire. (“Charisma” is overused.) I’m not sure who fits that bill in the current batch of hopefuls, but I know a couple who don’t. Beg pardon --hackbobbyjindalwheeze.
Raw Numbers Underestimate the Policy Impact of November 2. The Republican sweep was compelling everywhere except traditional liberal strongholds – the Northeast, California and a handful of outliers that I’ll consider elsewhere. It included statehouses and local races.
But the Republicans did not regain the Senate. As things stand right now, the Senate is 51 Democrat, 47 Republican, and 2 Independent. The independents are Joe Lieberman (Connecticut) and Bernie Sanders (Vermont). Sanders is a socialist – no, that’s not a hyperbolic slam, he really is a socialist. He caucuses with the Democrats.
Of the 33 Senators up for re-election in 2012, 20 are Democrats. And of those 20, not all of them are left-crazy, although they might have gone along with what they mistakenly believed was the bulletproof Obama-endorsed legislative agenda the past two years. These guys aren’t dumb – they see what happened to apparently firmly- entrenched senators like Russ Feingold. They see Scott Brown sitting in Edward Kennedy’s seat. Would you expect them to go down the line with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and President Obama on hot-button conservative issues? Would you expect them to ignore the message rising from the entrails of the November 2 slaughter?
Personally, I would not.
It is probably too much to hope that the Republicans can assemble a veto-proof majority to do what they need to do to undo the legislative wreckage of the last two years. But even with a minority in the Senate, the right-moderates stand some chance of maintaining effective control.
Part 2 will appear in a few days.
Part 2 will appear in a few days.