Political Hay

The Men on the Streets

Why it's too late for the Obama crowd to try triangulation, strangulation, or any other gimmick.

By 2.15.10

There is a truly evocative scene in the Jewish tradition concerning the return home of the warriors of Gad and Reuben after the war to conquer Israel. The Bible describes the arrangement Moses made with the tribes of Gad and Reuben (Numbers 32:1-33, Deuteronomy 3:18-20). They could keep the two lands won in a defensive war on the Moabite plain if they would cross the Jordan River to fight alongside their brethren for the land of Israel. The verses in Joshua (1:12-18, 22:1-9) record that they kept to the bargain. However, their arrival back to their families is not depicted in the verse, only in the oral tradition later written as Midrash.

It took fourteen years to capture and settle the land. The men of Gad and Reuben headed back en masse, traveling like an army. Back inside their cities, the women and children saw an immense battalion converging on their territory. This odd society had few children below 14, but had many strong young warriors between 20 and 33, since only men over 20 had gone across the river to fight. Seeing an invading horde approach, they took up arms to confront. They marched directly into the face of the menace.

Suddenly one of the older group, sensing they were being greeted hotly not warmly, shouted: "We are your fathers!"

WHETHER THIS IS INTENDED literally, its underlying message is a poignant truth. When fathers are absent, the sons assume the protective role. When the father reappears he is inevitably undermined to a degree. Barack Obama and the Congressional Democrats would do well to take this lesson to heart.

Obama and company are assuming the downtrend in his fortunes may be remedied in ways tried by past Presidents and mostly true. Make some centrist noises, schedule encounters with the opposing party, issue some banal statements about bipartisanship, thus forcing the other side to look extreme if they persist in roundly rejecting the agenda. When Dick Morris guided President Clinton successfully in this direction, the technique was known as triangulation; when Howard Baker tried it with Ronald Reagan it was more like strangulation. It usually works more or less.

The difference this time is the people have exploded out of their ennui and become engaged, sensing the fate of their beloved country is on the line. Like the children of Gad and Reuben who would have preferred to have a childhood with a strong daddy at home, our citizenry would rather cast their quadrennial ballot and hibernate peacefully while Washington does its thing. Once we are roused to repair the breach, it is difficult for us to repair back to the beach.

The White House erred grievously in disparaging the Tea Party demonstrators as refugees from the fever swamp. Now ordinary people are feverishly swamping the Democrats from all sides. Independent voters have abandoned the Dems, leaving them with only the dependents. But more important than the willingness to vote against Democrat candidates to weaken the President is the sense of having arisen to take back the reins. The Scott Brown victory in particular was a case of a referendum masquerading as an election. At his celebration, the crowd did not chant, as might ordinarily be expected, "Scott! Scott!" Instead they chanted "Forty-one! Forty-one!" This was not to honor Tom Seaver, but to proclaim the death-knell of the health-care bill, amenable to sabotage by forty-one Senate naysayers.

Once the people have been awakened they won't be put back to sleep easily nor be counted as sheep. Republicans can occasionally govern if people are alert, if they embrace their principles of reasonableness, but Democrats never can. The governing coalition of the left is achieved by marrying the know-it-alls to the know-nothings. Once people start paying attention, Democrat politicians are forced to blockade themselves inside NPR. The left relies heavily on gonna-control and when the militia shows up they are thoroughly disarmed.

Incidentally, until recently deficits never excited the masses into revolt. It seemed too green-eyeshade a subject to take into account. No longer. Once Obama brought the word "trillion" into play, he became typecast as Mister T. When there are too many zeroes in Washington folks in the heartland become willing to get their digits dirty. Obama and the Democrats in Congress can no longer save themselves; the only ones who could still possibly pick them off the floor are… you guessed it, the Republicans. They don't believe in gun control and too often shoot themselves in the foot.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a senior editor of The American Spectator.