Obama's Political Ploys Could Backfire
Barack Obama is taking a bigger risk than he realizes, testing the limits of the American electorate's patience with his insultingly manipulative political strategies. He is playing with fire.
The president's campaign strategy is to distract attention from his record of failure by attacking a do-nothing Congress. He has pointed his finger (yet again) at Republicans for putting the interests of the rich one percent over the welfare of the rest. President Obama has used this bogeyman to justify actions that, had a Republican taken them, would be bandied about the media as grounds for impeachment.
While these steps may fire up his base and win applause from certain quarters, they also bear grave political risks for the president. They may also ignite a backlash that will shellac him come November.
After three years of President Obama's term, Americans have become wary of his Cook County style of governing. When Congress was in Democratic hands, he was spoiled and able to ram through measures that many Americans opposed at the time (ObamaCare) or now oppose as being wasteful failures (the stimulus bill). He had to resort to bully tactics and legislative skullduggery and bribes even to get ObamaCare passed. These measures, of course, flew in the face of candidate Obama's promise to work across the aisle, respect and work with his opponents, and bring us together. They were also red flags that helped give rise to the Tea Party and to a Republican wave that swept many Democrats from office in 2010.
Those GOP victories finally posed a challenge to Barack Obama. But how did he respond? Certainly not by any appreciable compromises -- even when the House Republicans forced an extension of the Bush tax cuts upon him, he made sure to lash out and promise higher taxes would return in 2013. Having been cocooned in academia, unschooled in the ways of compromise by virtue of living in the deep blue haven of Cook County, coddled by a worshipful media, and surrounded by a small entourage of "yes people" cheering him on, there was no reason in Obama's mind to deign to work with others in his own party or with Republicans.
His obstinacy was bolstered by the Soros-supported Center for American Progress (CAP), which has been not just a "brain trust" for Barack Obama ("Obama's Idea Factory" according to Time Magazine), but also a hiring hall for the administration. John Podesta, for instance, headed the CAP for years and was also in charge of the Obama transition team before Obama assumed office. After the American people expressed their resistance to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi axis that had forced so much unwanted legislation on us by bringing so many Republicans into office, the CAP responded by sending Obama his marching orders. President Obama was advised to resort to extraordinary measures to circumvent Congress -- and ignore the 2010 election results.
He has done so with alacrity.
President Obama has been practicing "The New Authoritarianism" that liberals have been dreaming about for years (see this superb column by Fred Siegel and Joel Kotkin). This "political philosophy" holds that Americans are basically dodos and must be ruled from above by elites who can ignore the wishes of the hoi polloi.
John Kass of the Chicago Tribune argues that this is "the Chicago Way" writ large. Under that system "citizens, even Republicans, are expected to take what big government gives them. If the political boss suggests that you purchase some expensive wrought-iron fence to decorate your corporate headquarters, and the guy selling insurance to the wrought-iron boys is the boss' little brother, you write the check." However, that is penny ante. Remember Obama's boast that he would fundamentally transform the nation?
Indeed, his presidency has been marked by a power-grab of unprecedented scope. He is, as Michelle Malkin writes, the American Pharaoh whose motto might be "So let it be written, so let it be done."
Be it through signing statements, executive orders (his latest is to give illegal immigrants a big break by allowing many of them with family members in America to avoid deportation while they seek green cards -- a pander to bolster Hispanic support), rule interpretations, selectively refusing to enforce some laws (Attorney General Eric Holder has run the Department of Justice in ways reminiscent of Tammany Hall), promulgating regulations to curry favor with some groups -- environmentalists among them -- while punishing adversaries, or making recess appointments (which he derided during the Bush years), Obama's role models seem increasingly to be the dictators of China toward whom he expressed envy not too long ago for their ability to impose policies regardless of the will of the people. Pundits have characterized his reign as being Chávez-like or akin to the ruler of a banana republic.
Here is the problem: Americans are not the dodos Obama and his allies think they are -- call it bitter clingers. However, Americans do cling to the Constitution and to the letters and the spirit of our laws. They are the bulwark against tyranny. This reverence toward the law and not toward Obama is his Achilles heel.
The president's increasingly flagrant disregard for the law and his disrespect for the will of the people may be the very self-inflicted wounds that cost him a second term. Unfortunately, this gift will need to be handled adeptly by a Republican Party not known since the Reagan days as being great communicators. Republicans have a willing audience, but are they ready to perform?
All the recent polls and surveys have shown, Americans have become increasingly distrustful of big government. While Obama has been pounding away at theme of income inequality in America with the idea that this tack will pay political dividends and justify his aggressive actions, Americans do not believe that redistribution should be a priority of the federal government. Pro-growth policies are far more important to Americans. While Obama may have been marinated in the academic swamps of anti-capitalism, most people have a favorable view of corporations compared to the Leviathan that the federal government has become.
As Justin Higginbottom notes in the Deseret News:
According to a Gallup poll, more Americans prioritize the federal government helping to grow the economy then redistributing wealth.
Forty-six percent of Americans believe it is extremely or very important that the federal government reduce the wealth gap while 70 percent think it is important for the government to increase equality of opportunity. Eighty-two percent think it is important for the government to grow and expand the economy.
Gallup reports that 52 percent now say that "the fact that some people in the United States are rich and others are poor" is an acceptable part of the economic system -- an increase from the last time the question was asked more than a decade ago.
Another Gallup poll shows that fear of big government is at near-record level at 64 percent. Only 26 percent thought big business was the biggest threat to the country in the future while 8 percent thought this of big labor.
As conservative media outlets have exposed the munificent pay and pension packages that public unions enjoy, as more and more states have their credit ratings cut (most recently and tellingly Illinois, Obama's home state, had its rating cut to the lowest of any state), as Americans look across the pond and see those European systems of government that Obama wants to emulate bring their people and nations to the brink of disunion and ruin, Americans have had their eyes opened to the perils of big government.
These findings comport well with the fact that an increasing percentage of people are identifying themselves as independents and conservatives as opposed to liberals. Just as more and more Democratic politicians have been finding reasons to avoid joint appearances with President Obama when he flies into their states, more people do not want to share the same party label as the president. Adding salt to the wounds, Democratic registrations have been falling across the nation. The McCain campaign was poorly run, but the one bright spot was the spots they ran characterizing Obama as a "celebrity." People tire of celebrities and fads; has Obama reached his own expiration point after three long years?
His favorability ratings may enjoy a bump up every now and then (there are only so many bin Ladens to kill), but they have plummeted from the heights when he came into office.
If -- and this is admittedly a big if -- Republicans are adept at crafting the right message, they can topple this vulnerable president. Americans have an abiding faith in the paramount importance of the checks-and-balances system of our government. Even the revered Franklin Roosevelt faced a backlash of public anger after his Supreme Court-packing scheme came to light. Americans have an instinctual reflex action when they feel a president does not respect the Constitution or the will of the people.
Republicans should have a drumbeat of stories regarding not just the myriad of problems of Obamacare (1/6 of the economy), but also the disgraceful ways in which it came to pass. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska bore the brunt of his state's disgust at his role in passing ObamaCare and chose not to run again; that should have been a warning sign to Obama. But so should the rise of the Tea Party. Cartoonists have made light of Obama's ears; Republican operatives should take advantage of his tin ear for politics.
Republicans must point out that Obama has constantly circumvented the will of the people when he has imposed regulations that will increase our energy costs (his "war on carbon"; his refusal to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built), granted a disproportionate number of ObamaCare waivers to union members; made non-recess recess appointments; imposed czar after czar, blatantly ignoring the "advise and consent" role that the Constitution gives to the Senate; selected radical federal judges -- who have lifetime tenure -- whom even the left-leaning American Bar Association finds "not qualified" to a shockingly large extent (Obama has his own court-packing scheme); flouted bankruptcy laws when he handed over a big chunk of the auto industry to unions and left taxpayers holding the bag; and the list goes on and on. There is a surfeit of material for Republicans to use in commercials, and each one should end by raising the specter of what President Obama would do in a second term -- completely free of concerns regarding the electoral consequences of his aggressive actions.
Obama has taken aggressive steps that should offend and worry all Americans who respect our Constitution and rightly fear a president who seemingly does not.
Will Republicans be able to tap voter angst?
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.