For the past decade the Democrats have managed to defy gravity by bolting together an unlikely coalition of the richest and poorest Americans. It’s no secret. Ever since President Bush’s re-election in 2004, the pattern has been clear. People making above $100,000 and below $40,000 vote Democratic. The people in the middle vote Republican.
But now that top-bottom coalition is about to come apart, or lose its majority status at least. And the issue will be one that may loom larger than the debacle of Obamacare — the Keystone Pipeline.
Forget all that business about Barack Obama being the first African-American President, the child of poverty and discrimination who fought his way to the top through sheer brilliance and doggedness. Sure African-Americans vote 90 percent for him and form an indispensable part of his coalition. But Obama hasn’t done a thing for them since taking office except increase unemployment.
No, the real Obama is the one who came out of Harvard and Chicago Law Schools, picking up everything he knows in the faculty lounge. That’s where he met the people who taught him that middle Americans are frustrated yahoos “clinging to their guns and religion,” the ones who set him on the lunatic path of believing that what the weather is going to be like in 50 years is the most important issue facing America.
Obama’s critical support comes from the upper crust of America, the citizens who live comfortably sheltered in academia and the non-profit sector, who don’t care much about electricity or the manufacturing economy but who honestly believe that we can shut down the whole middle portion of the country and turn off the lights in order to save the world from the “pollution” of carbon dioxide.
Soothsayers have always tried to hold public attention by predicting disaster and vengeance from the heavens. That’s where the Democrats find themselves now. Two week President Obama launched yet another offensive on climate change and solar energy by visiting the site of recent tornadoes and trying to convince people that this “unusual weather” was reason to give up their way of life. This is right after we’ve experience the coldest winter in 100 years — after a recent report said that tornados have been at a low ebb for the last half decade. In the past 200 years, has there ever been another leader in Western civilization who has tried to appeal to people on the grounds that he could change the weather?
Yet Obama’s most crucial supporters — the upper-class environmental movement — have drawn the line in the sand. Approve the Keystone Pipeline and he’s toast. When he punted last month for the umpteenth time on a Keystone decision, most environmental critics excoriated the President because he didn’t turn it down altogether. Then there was fawning coverage in the press:
The president has now put off any decision for two elections hoping to placate his supporters. But he has angered the Canadian administration in the process. Now, here is the kind of situation where I've asked myself in the past whether Obama just doesn't see the whole picture or whether he is actually 10 steps ahead of everyone else including me. [Kurt Cobb, Christian Science Monitor, May 8]
This about an issue where 60 percent of the public wants to build the pipeline, where every Democrat in a pivotal election this fall is running away from him on the issue, when even Bill Clinton and Warren Buffett are telling him to approve the damned thing and get it over with.
But then there’s Bill McKibben, orchestrator of numerous White House demonstrations, who is promising to keep the President awake every night for the next two years if he says “Yes.” There is Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, who is promising “civil disobedience” if it is approved. (McKibben is saying the same thing.) And there is Tom Steyer, the billionaire tech genius of Silicon Valley who proclaims, “We don’t need no stinking energy!” and wants to shut down everything in the economy that isn’t virtual. They are Obama’s last bastion of hope. If he disappoints them, the press will descend on him like wolves.
So that’s where Obama and the whole country find themselves. It has now become obvious that the economy is never going to improve under Obama because he and his supporters don’t want it to. It might hurt the planet. So it’s procrastinate and procrastinate and procrastinate until the next election and maybe even the one after that.
This is the kind of stagnation Thorstein Veblen warned against in The Theory of the Leisure Class. When you couple an aristocratic upper crust that has lost interest in economic progress with a lumpenproletariat that doesn’t understand growth and only wants handouts from the government, you have a prescription for long economic decline.
But all this is going to end in November. Then the Great American Middle is going to have its say. All those 9-to-5 people who work in manufacturing plants or real estate offices or the corner 7-Eleven, who don’t want handouts from the government but only the opportunity to make a living and keep the fattest part of their paychecks — they are going to stand up and be counted. And then the President will discover that those same people whom his fellow professors told him are racist, homophobic, gun-toting troglodytes are actually the ordinary Americans who made this country great and want to see it made great again.