When praising his own “accomplishments” Barack Obama has an unusual fondness for the word “unprecedented” though invariably his assertions lack any historical validity. In contrast the voters of Massachusetts can now claim an accomplishment that entirely justifies the use of that word. To find an event in American history reasonably comparable in character and impact to the Massachusetts Earthquake we must go all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt’s 1937 attempt to “pack” the Supreme Court. That is the last-perhaps the only- time in our history that a President commanding huge congressional majorities sought with breathtaking arrogance to redesign the constitutional, social and economic foundations of the country and was stunningly defeated by the very people who long had been his party’s staunchest supporters. With a righteousness and sense of invincibility engendered by three consecutive triumphal election cycles that had given him and his party an extraordinary dominance Roosevelt sought to demonize the “nine old men” of the Supreme Court who had the temerity to strike down key elements of the New Deal as unconstitutional. With little consultation outside his inner circle and apparent indifference to how such a radical move would be received in the country Roosevelt advanced sweeping legislation that would increase the membership of the Supreme Court from nine to fifteen and replace lifetime appointment with mandatory retirement ages, moves which would enable him to swiftly “pack” the Court with hand-picked minions. It was at this point that ordinary Americans and several key Democratic leaders like Montana’s Senator Burton K. Wheeler decided that Roosevelt’s radical power grab was going too far and actively threatened the nation’s hallowed Constitutional traditions. The Court “packing” scheme was decisively defeated in the Congress and the final political result was the Democratic Party losing seven Senate and 80 House seats in the 1938 mid-term elections. That was America’s last peacetime election before World War II restored the country’s economy, ended the Great Depression, and redeemed the political fortunes and historical reputation of Franklin Roosevelt. Nonetheless 1937 remains a decisive turning point in American history when the overarching ambition of a well-intended but tone deaf President were dramatically rebuffed by a most unlikely combination of opponents who read the national mood far better than he. The week that saw the unbelievably improbable election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts also witnessed the startling collapse of the recently “inevitable” Obamacare legislation, and the absolute implosion of the Democratic Party in a tawdry spectacle of shock, fear, anger, finger-pointing, pseudo-contrition, confusion, chaos, and general cluelessness. Not in living memory has a dominant political party been so devastated, so quickly by a single wildly unpredictable event. It is easier to search the past for perspective on this American melodrama, than to divine its future conclusion. Much will turn on the choices made by the Democratic Party. Will there be a Clintonesque dash to the center, (“the end of big government and welfare as we know it”) by a President in hot pursuit of re-election?
Or, will the Party in certain knowledge that it will never again enjoy such Congressional dominance heed the frenzied howls of its far left and “double-down” on the strategies of bigger government, redistributionist legislation, and intolerable taxation that have so alienated the public? Rational calculation would seem to demand the former direction, but in critical degree today’s Democratic Party is far more radical than the Party that was dethroned in 1994. The dominant Furies that energize and fund the Democrats are of an ideologically obsessed mindset unlike anything that ever before captured control of a major American political party. President Obama’s utterances since the upheaval are suggestive of self-pity and delusion. Excusing his inattentiveness because he was “so busy getting stuff done” and then claiming that both he and Scott Brown were elected by the same anger at George Bush bespeaks a man quite out of touch with reality. His lame attempt at populism-Let’s punish those greedy bankers- is nothing but the class warfare and general assault on capitalism that has been the thinly disguised agenda of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Axis from the beginning. What’s new is that now the American people know it and are determined with their votes to decisively defeat it.Centennial Fellow William Moloney was Colorado Education Commissioner, 1997-2007. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, and Rocky Mountain News.
(Denver Post, Jan. 24)) Why did Gov. Bill Ritter fold his reelection campaign? Why is Sen. Michael Bennet so far behind in the polls? Why did Scott Brown win in Massachusetts? Why is Barack Obama struggling to save his presidency, one year after taking office in triumph?
Because Americans have completely lost patience with irresponsibility. For years this column has talked of the need for a responsibility movement to challenge both political parties. “We’ll call it Element R and launch it today, right here in Colorado,” I wrote in 2007. What the country has seen in recent months is Element R, in fact if not in name, starting to take charge.
Surveys foretold what elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts have confirmed: sharp declines in Democratic support, benefiting Republican candidates but not greatly boosting Republican registration. It’s the independent voters whose ranks are growing. Citizens are less inclined to ally with either the donkey or the elephant. Both have forfeited confidence.
People’s aroused insistence for responsibility instead of irresponsibility, on the part of those we entrust with power, best explains the new political landscape. To start with definitions, responsibility means keeping a trust, doing your duty, facing the music. Whereas irresponsibility means shirking, acting in disregard of consequences, behaving as if 2 and 2 don’t make 4. Examples abound.
Ritter’s fatal wound, absent-father guilt aside, seems to have been either fiscal and executive recklessness or an impending legal-ethical scandal. He might have brazened it out, whatever the case, if years of gubernatorial irresponsibility by the likes of Davis in California, Blagojevich in Illinois, and Sanford in South Carolina hadn’t inflamed public disgust. But in 2010 the odds have become prohibitive, so he’s quitting.
The responsibility deficit for Bennet as an interim senator from Colorado matches that of Martha Coakley in her failure to become an interim senator from Massachusetts. Neither grasped that the country’s tolerance for unserious political palaver-as-usual is exhausted. The national BS detector is pegged. Bennet’s phony indignation over corrupt deals in the health care bill, and then over secret negotiations for same, backed up in neither case by his vote, simply spelled game over.
As for our glib young president, Mr. Obama set a trap for himself on inauguration day. After calling for a “new era of responsibility,” he has proved epically irresponsible ever since – weakening us against our enemies, selling out our allies, ballooning the deficit, expanding government, worsening the recession by bullying business, and obsessing over socialized medicine like Ahab with the whale. No wonder his numbers are at record lows.
The irresponsibility epidemic, a contagion long carried by Democrats but often caught by Republicans as well, finally triggered public fury in last year’s tea parties and townhalls. This is the uprising I’ve called Element R. But is it a movement – perhaps even a force capable of remaking the GOP? Or is it merely an electoral mood?
The responsibility backlash will continue taking its healthy toll. Whether it’s durable enough to take charge, time will tell. Though unaffiliated voters hold the balance of power, the coherence of their views is doubtful. Here in Colorado, it would be interesting to see Element R gel and assert itself to the point of asking questions that the established parties shrink from. These might include:
Does the initiative process make government so responsive as to be irresponsible? Is marijuana prohibition working any better than alcohol prohibition did? In legislating away both pregnancy and parenthood, have we signed a demographic suicide pact? Is Muslim sharia law compatible with liberty?
Dems and GOP alike have done none too well with our sacred responsibility for “keeping the republic,” in Franklin’s words. May they both feel the righteous wrath of Element R.
(CCU Student) On February 10 2009, President Barack Obama’s approval rating peaked at a healthy 65.5%. The man seemed politically invulnerable with both houses under his party’s control and almost two out of three people in the country approving of the direction Obama was going to take the country. Throughout the course of 2009, Obama’s approval rating has been steadily declining and currently stands in most polls at around 50%. As the 2010-midterm elections approach, many political commentators are expecting a repeat of the 1994 election where the Republicans won major victories in both the House and the Senate, essentially a complete turnaround of the 2008 elections.
Surely, most everyone expects Obama’s approval rating to decline somewhat after the typical honeymoon period was over, but to the point where there is a realistic possibility of the Republicans who only a year ago were cast out of Washington would make a full recovery if not come out stronger then in 2008? What happened? The answer is in how Barack Obama has been conducting his administration. He has become a victim of his own successes and at the same time, extremely indecisive on many main issues. Whether or not one agrees with his policies, Barack Obama had resounding success in passing legislation, especially at the beginning of the year. In his first 100 days, he was able to pass a stimulus bill that, at the time, cost more than the entire Iraq war with little opposition. In April, America was projected to run budget deficits that ran around $1.4 trillion dollars and there with relatively little resistance to this major increase in spending. Barak Obama has also succeeded in passing a bill that would increase the amount of troops in Afghanistan by 30,000. Now he is working on an overhaul of the entire American healthcare system, not bad for a president who has only been in office for a year.
So why has his approval rating gone down? Obama has simply become a victim of his own success. He has been successful in everything he has put serious effort into, with the possible exception of his healthcare program (which still may pass but it has not been easy). Yet the problems of recession, Afghanistan, and many other issues seem to be just getting worse. Who are the American people going to blame other than the man who promised economic recovery and the withdrawal of troops from Middle East battlefields? Many Americans are irritated that the problems of America cannot be solved quickly. Above all, it seems Obama has frustrated almost everybody, people from every political faction. He frustrated those who voted for him by not solving the economic crisis quickly and by agreeing to the troop increase in Afghanistan, and to the left he has not done nearly enough to fulfill his massive agenda he entered the White House with (he still has yet to address the issues of environmental change, gay rights, the education system, and NAFTA). Economic conservatives feel that this out of control spending is going to hurt us in the long run and this ongoing healthcare battle is upsetting everyone. On top of all this, he has been indecisive on just about every major issue presented to him. Granted, Obama has only held office for a year, but the man who came into office with the intention of change has been somewhat hesitant on how this change is going to be accomplished. On the healthcare battle issue, Obama has said relatively little about the details of healthcare reform, but has been expending tremendous political capital in passing this bill that is currently held up in Congress. When the media asks him directly about public option, he seems to waver one day saying that the bill must have a public option, and the next day stating it is not a necessity. Same story with the situation in Afghanistan. To his credit, Obama eventually did commit the troops requested by his generals; however, it took him almost three months to come to this conclusion. The trend in his administration seems to consist of setting broad goals and, even if these goals are not met, coming up with some sort of legislation that merely represents change. Americans are starting to realize this and even people who traditionally vote Democratic are starting to get dissatisfied with his lack of resolve on issues (for example, the gay community, and Obama’s apparent lack of results for the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the armed forces and gay marriage.) Lastly, Americans are starting to get sick of hearing how every problem in America is a result of the Bush Administration actions rather than the policies passed by the Obama Administration. The wars in the Middle East, economic recession, global warming all are Bush’s fault. While there may be some legitimacy to these claims, people the public is getting fed up with hearing about how these problems are not Obama’s fault but Bush’s. The longer his administration is in power, the truer this will become. A 50% approval rating hardly indicates the fall of the Obama administration. However, the man who was seemingly politically unstoppable at the beginning of the year has been shown to be mortal. He has alienated both the left and the right by doing what seems to be everything wrong to the right and not enough action to the left.
Americans are also starting to realize that the man who promised to reform Washington is starting to become tired and indecisive while blaming the past administration for his problems. Whether or not the Republicans are triumphant in the 2010-midterm election only time will tell, but the fact that it is even a possibility shows how far Obama’s image has fallen.