It may well be — I wouldn’t deny it for a minute — that Barack Obama has less to recommend him as a U. S. president than any predecessor of the past century. Vain, cocksure, morose, disabled from admitting a mistake or a bad guess — what a guy! Small wonder no present poll shows him with majority public support.
There is irony here. Majority public support is what catapulted him to the presidency. The things he’s done which have lowered his reputation — e.g., put health care under federal control, fight for the redistribution of income, etc. — are pretty much the things he could have been heard pledging to do when he ran for the presidency. Except relatively few thought relatively much about the presumptive consequences.
We, the people elected him. That’s the point hardly ever acknowledged amid all the shouting and counter-shouting that drown Washington, D.C. in perpetual racket. We twice, not just once, armed him, escorted him to the White House, opened the front door for him, said, in effect, go to it.
The anti-Obama backlash now becoming a central fact of American politics is likely overdue, and probably constructive insofar as it slows him, hinders his designs, makes him think twice about notions that bear small resemblance to the products of careful, considered reasoning. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t be unduly hard on a guy we put where he is.
Barack Obama is the product — perhaps the inevitable product — of an unresolved cultural conflict among his countrymen: one conservatives thought they had licked back in the ’80s. Supposedly, Ronald Reagan had given such impetus to conservative free-market, anti-communist thinking that he had forever settled the questions that brought him to office. He had cut taxes, helped overthrow the Soviet commies, taken up for traditional morality. It was done! Hallelujah! It was going to be all right.
Except it wasn’t all right at all. With Reagan out of office, the great American political culture proved itself — if more hesitantly than would have been the case without Reagan — to be as bollixed as ever when it came to certain basic questions. To wit, how big should government be, and how much should that government cost? Is it government’s duty to make everybody happy or just grant people the opportunity to become happy with minimal interference from outside? Things like that.
The old conflicts and arguments broke out again. The old war cries rose. The rich had too much money! The poor had too little! Life wasn’t fair! Government had to make it fair!
Into the middle of our unresolved arguments strolled a community organizer whose race and education drew more attention than the unresolved nature of our conflicts. Many heard him giving more or less clear answers to the old questions. The rich had too much money? Yep, replied candidate Obama. Government needed to do more for more people? Yep. The free market wasn’t as good as Reagan had made it out to be? Sure enough.
Somehow, conservatives proved themselves unable — or reluctant — to make the case for smaller government at less cost. Obama’s case for bigger, costlier government, reinforced by the public’s Bush-fatigue, won the voters’ hearts. He got the job he asked for — courtesy of those who liked what they were hearing. Why they liked it is another matter entirely. They liked it — that’s the point. They promoted Barack Obama to run the whole country, which he proceeded to do in a way that is now producing buyers’ remorse of a very widespread — not universal but still widespread — nature indeed.
The presidency of Barack Obama, whose signature achievement is a health care “reform” stalled by a lousy website and castigated for an untenable, unaffordable economic approach, is the outcome of democratic deliberation — if you call it deliberation. We can’t pin this job on a single man. Not when so many millions of fingerprints are all over the crime scene.
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