Last week President Obama consoled himself after his party suffered heavy losses by noting that “two-thirds” of voters didn’t show up to the polls. Obama presented himself as the voice of this nonvoting silent majority. He had “heard” them. Through telepathy apparently, he knows that they want him to continue his failed progressive agenda.
Richard Nixon once claimed a “silent majority” for himself too. But he never had the audacity to suggest its members didn’t vote. Nixon’s silent majority voted but didn’t protest. Obama’s apparently protests but doesn’t vote.
Obama may have set a new precedent for politicians on the losing side of an election. They can now poison the results by suggesting all the people who didn’t vote disapprove of them. Almost four out of ten voters didn’t vote in Obama’s election in 2008. But back then he wasn’t in the mood to listen to nonvoters. He was too busy promising a “fundamental” transformation of the country. As the most inspirational politician of his generation, he was going to usher in an era of maximum political participation.
His starry-eyed supporters were talking about how he was going to create a “new way of being on the planet.” Now they can’t be bothered to vote. Jon Stewart told CNN that he hadn’t voted, but later dismissed the comment as a “joke.” It didn’t appear to be a joke. In his clarification, he said that he had voted but he didn’t establish whether that occurred before or after the “joke.” All that’s left from the 2008 craze for Obama are the pot shots at Bush, which Stewart allowed himself recently by mocking Bush’s painting.
Obama implies that he owes it to these nonvoters to stay the liberal course. He interprets both excitement and apathy as endorsements of his agenda. He attributes the unpopularity of “Washington” to the absence of action. Gridlock, he says, is the enemy of good government. But more often than not it operates as a protector of it. Had enough gridlock prevented the passage of Obamacare, the country and even the Democrats’ political fortunes would be stronger today.
The collapse of Obama and his party is due not to the absence of legislative accomplishments but to the presence of ruinous ones. At a time when he should have been focused on jumpstarting the economy, he was obsessed with a health care bill sure to undermine it and a phony stimulus bill that had no chance of stimulating anything but debt. His job-killing climate change taxes were too onerous for even Senate Democrats to accept but that he had prioritized their passage told Americans all they needed to know about his lack of concern for the economy.
Obama says that he can at once hear voters and nonvoters, and they are both conveniently communicating the same message, that Republicans should capitulate to his political philosophy. That is all he means by getting “stuff done.” Even Chris Matthews of MSNBC couldn’t believe that a defeated president would adopt such a rigid stance, noting that Obama prefers to speak of “common ground” rather than “compromise,” as the latter term might actually mean accepting a Republican proposal. Common ground just refers to liberal or nonideological legislation some Republicans happen to like.
What the media treats as his renewed commitment to bipartisanship—“They want me to push hard to close some of these divisions, break through some of the gridlock, and get stuff done”—is more like a rejection of it. Obama announced his intention to grant amnesty by executive order even as he touted the virtues of bipartisanship. That is his idea of breaking gridlock.
Obama still sees himself as the popular dictator for whom constitutional checks and balances are nothing more than antiquated quibbles. For the good of voters, nonvoters, and foreigners, he feels entitled to disregard existing laws. Illegal immigrants are evidently part of the silent majority prodding him to buck Congress.
Democracy has always been an annoyance to him. His advisers now even brag about their circumventions of it, with one recently chalking up passage of Obamacare to a lack of transparency about the bill. It is fitting that such an undemocratic president finds himself reduced to seeking his mandate from those who don’t vote.
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