Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Not Following The Leader

Comparisons currently abound between G.W. Bush's Katrina response and Obama's BP spill response. Increasingly the Obama response is found lacking, even in Progressive solons, in a manner similar to the former. Rubbish. As Bush's response was wildly mischaracterized and grotesquely unfairly attacked in like wise Obama is taking heat for cirumstances beyond his, or any president's, control. They take the heat however illogical that might be and speaking of possible illogic a fair percentage of the electorate that swooned over the "change" promised by the Chicago Kid are suddenly in a far less receptive mood after assesing the Kid's actually attempted wholesale changes to the economy and health system. Obama may be a "leader" by trying to be "out in front" of needed change but being too far out can put one out of sight of the bulk of the electorate. For all the blather about Americans being sheep they are the least easily led folk on the planet outside the mountains of Afghanistan.

It is often impossible for a president to know whether he is leading the public or dragging it against its will. Obama seems to be leaning ever the latter way and his downward poll drift reflects that. High dudgeon and rhetorical overreach may win elections but they almost immediately become a liability a few seconds after a newbie president's backside hits the bottom of the Big Chair. And pushing really hard out of the gate virtually guarantees equally hard pushback from the electorate in the fullness of time.

Obama has pushed harder and faster than any president since at least FDR and the public is pushing back just as hard. The relentlessly promoted air of crisis that has informed this push is simply not felt outside the cloisters of DC. The economy is poor but it's wildly far from a 30s style depression, the majority of citizens like their current health care arrangements, and the bulk of the electorate is comfortable with the idea of American Exceptionalism. Wholesale economic rearrangement and constant international apologias may thrill the heartstrings of the Progressive political class but they fall flat with the centrist majority needed to re-elect a party leader to national office.

Obama has not gone one program too far. He's gone a baker's dozen, and several trillion dollars, too far and the electorate is hanging back grumbling and kvetching about the forced march. Obama was not kidding about "change". He's pushing it in spades, doing his best to do business a different way, and is rapidly finding out that the multicultural internationalist tropes beloved of Progressive academia are not playing very well in Peoria, or in Houston, Topeka, Albuquerque, Grand Rapids, Macon, Missoula, Nashville, Spartanburg, or pretty much any average center-right polity between the coasts. Many were fooled once in 2008. It is becoming less and less likely that they will be fooled twice.

Even the denizens of hard-core progressive redoubts on the coasts, and in the ever more stressed Rust Belt, are finding out the hard-core way that headlong governmental fiscal profligacy along with a headlong pursuit of absurdly costly and counterproductive green "initiatives" have proven to be a high-speed maglev ride to bankruptcy. If the coasts ever get that old time fiscal religion then Progressives can kiss the White House goodbye for a generation, again.

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