March 13, 2009
Obama Administration's Midterm Campaign ThemesBy Lee Cary
It's not too soon to anticipate the major campaign themes for the Obama administration during the 2010 midterm elections.
Not yet two months into his presidency, it doesn't take a NASCAR driver to feel that the wheels on Obama's agenda are wobbly. But despite the day-to-day challenges of running the executive branch of the government, it's reasonable to assume that Obama's brain, David Axelrod, and his minions are already looking ahead to the midterm elections. Campaigning these days is, after all, a non-stop endeavor for those who know how to win.
It's also reasonable to assume that Axelrod et al anticipate that Obama's popularity may be sliding down as the midterm campaign ramps up. Barring unforeseen international events, the extent of his slippage will depend most on the state of the U.S. economy.
Regardless of the political environment in 2010, Axelrod et al will likely only update and adjust, and not fundamentally alter, the basic campaign themes that won the White House. If so, here's what we can anticipate.
(1) Obama as the Historic Change Agent Entitled to Support
Midterm campaign rhetoric will leverage a key general election theme by appealing for support of Democrat candidates as a way to invest in the historic Obama presidency. Resistance, on the other hand, to his major initiatives by voting for Republicans, will be framed as support for a reactionary political ideology.
If a recently emerging resistance to Obama's most dramatic and expensive initiatives (e.g., health care reform) continues to be voiced by high-profile, business-world, Obama supporters, they may find themselves characterized, without using the term, as capitalist roaders - a Maoist term to describe those who are politically left-leaning, but who bend to pressure from capitalists attempting to slow any revolution that benefits the proletariat. For example, multi-billionaire Warren Buffet, an Obama supporter, has recently questioned the timing and aggressiveness of the President's initiatives in the midst of a recession. If the recession continues, by the midterm campaign one or the other will change course. Probably not Obama.
(2) Obama as the Equalizer of American Opportunity
This theme is one of class struggle. It was expressed often in Obama's general campaign rhetoric as the disparity between a CEO and an average worker's wages.
If the economy is still in the doldrums, we may hear a variation of his recent attack on Wall Street profiteers and big bankers. If not specifically them, then the focus will shift to business senior executives in general, positioned as the culprits who ship American jobs overseas for enhanced profit.
If health care reform is close to being underway by then, the target of rhetorical derision may be HMOs, PPOs, pharmaceuticals, any corporate entities that profit in the health care business while millions of Americans go without guaranteed health care coverage.
By then, Obama will be able to tout a more equalized taxing structure (raising taxes on the wealthy), even though those policies may be impeding economic recovery. This will come in the context of the larger class struggle theme. It will garner votes, perhaps even more so than in the general election. Again, the state of the economy will be the Great Determiner of campaign strategy.
(3) Obama as Transitional Leader toward State Capitalism
If the recession continues to be a global event, perhaps even leaning into depression, it will offer Obama the opportunity to promote a global united front in the battle against global poverty, global warming, continental wealth distribution, and other transnational issues that might appear on a U.N. agenda.
In this case, we may hear the projection of an international version of individual state capitalism, wherein key elements of the global economy are coordinated for the global social welfare. While this will be only a campaign language event, it will particularly appeal to those who are persuaded by the case for man-made global warming. That issue will be the test case for enhanced international cooperation. (Don't forget Senator Obama's sponsorship of the 2007 Global Poverty Act.)
Finally, looming over all these speculations (that's all they are at this point) is the unpredictable international event that could alter everything. For example, President Jimmy Carter's presidency changed decisively the day the Iranians took the U.S. Embassy staff hostage in Tehran. As did George W. Bush's on 9/11.
Finally, for many American Thinker readers the key question will be these: What will be the G.O.P.'s counteroffer to the voters. And how effective will it be?