"It's the economy, stupid." Or is it?
We know this shopworn cliché is true because none other than Mr. Health Care Reform himself, Barack Obama, made the economy the featured item in his State of the Union address. But then, saying the economy is front and center to Mr. Obama misstates his real intent, which has everything to do with advancing statism's frontiers and ransacking the bag of cheap tricks that Democrats resort to when sinking in the polls. That bag of tricks is called demagoguery. But will it work this time? No, and for good reasons.
Mr. Obama is after big banks and investment firms. He plans to slap them upside the head and whittle them down to size, all to the frenzied applause of blood-lusting voters. Or so he hopes.
The president's national address had all the telltale signs of Bill Clinton's addresses, which were to-do lists on steroids. But unlike Mr. Clinton, who tacked with any old wind, Mr. Obama's speech indicated that he's an unbowed and unbroken ideologue who is up to repackaging his statist initiatives, but nothing more. Deep down inside, Mr. Obama would like to do what modern liberals pine to do and Hugo Chávez did: nationalize the economy. But even the left-footed Mr. Obama knows that Americans would never swallow that hooey. So the president resorts to a laundry-list strategy, which, he believes, cleverly hides his big-government aims.
And like any faltering Democratic pol, the president took the easier and lower road of bashing a bogeyman: financial institutions. Mr. Obama's call for financial services reform wasn't like his raw meat performance in Elyria, Ohio last week, but it was an undertone. No doubt this ploy has won the endorsements of a bevy of high-priced Democratic pollsters and been affirmed in focus groups galore.
There's nothing like inciting witch-burnings and stonings of bankers and investment execs to distract the public from the complete failure that the empty-suited Mr. Obama is. Appealing to people's primal appetites for revenge, resentment, and envy is, according to the time-honored formula, a sure way for the president and Democrats to move the heat from them to whatever handy victims they can find -- as in the past, doctors and pharmaceutical companies, but never parasitical trial attorneys.
But the president's gambit may yet be another recipe for grand Obamaian failure for three important reasons.
First, demagoguery tends to work best when people see no escape from their predicaments. This nation still lives in the residual glow of the Reagan Revolution. Most Americans sense -- if not know -- that there's a powerful and proven alternative to Keynesian claptrap and government-centric "solutions" to our economic woes. It's called less government and Americans giving fewer tax dollars to Uncle Sam. It's ending the "shop until you drop" mantra and actions of profligate Democrats. It's closing out the head-to-head competition between the U.S. Treasury and Parker Brothers to see which one can print the most monopoly money. It's allowing energy companies to drill, drill, drill on American soil and off U.S. shores. Americans are waking up to the fact that the nation's little flirtation with Obama-style, feel-good, kumbaya socialism or fascism -- take your pick -- is a disaster in the making. Mr. Obama may gain some quick traction and a modest bump from raising his club and landing it squarely on the heads of bankers and Wall-Streeters, but the benefit can't last. Why? Because it won't do a darned thing to put people back to work or give them the sense of security that their jobs are staying. Banker-bashing won't pay anyone's bills. Americans will end up seeing the president's shenanigans as a useless, if temporarily amusing, reprise of A Clockwork Orange, where delinquent youths vented their rage over their failings on the adults.
The second reason is that Mr. Obama's attacks on Wall Street, investment pros, and bankers are going to disproportionately hurt blue-state cities, with New York first and foremost.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has already come out with a blistering preemptive strike on the president's demagoguery. Wall Street is an important player in New York City's economy. Brokerages and financial institutions generate a good deal of revenue for the city. Fat-cat investment bankers and financial execs who live there pay hefty tax bills. That's not to mention the general beneficial economic impact of having financial institutions in the city. In effect, Mr. Obama's developing campaign against Wall Street is a campaign against New York City -- or Boston, or his own Chicago. New York City and the Empire State are already suffering an exodus of wage-earning citizens who are sick and tired of paying high taxes and having to daily negotiate a jungle of regulations and red tape. Governor David Patterson (D) will only accelerate the exodus if his call for a billion dollars in new taxes -- or anything approaching that sum -- is heeded. The liberal-ish Mr. Bloomberg has had to swallow a big reality pill. Now he's attempting to force one down Mr. Obama's throat. If the president fails to swallow it, expect Republicans to win elections in the strangest places, like the borough of Manhattan or up in Greenwich, Connecticut -- territory where hunting season is usually always open on the GOP. But hey, if Republicans can win in Massachusetts, they can win anywhere (to paraphrase Frank Sinatra).
The third and final reason is that there are those who know better. That would be the nation's conservatives, tea party patriots, and Republicans. There's no fear that conservatives and tea party folk will raise their voices -- they're doing so already -- to strip Mr. Obama of his mace and battleaxe. But it's Republicans -- especially congressional Republicans -- who are always the X Factor when it comes to battling the liberal establishment and its media mouthpieces.
Republicans need to join conservatives and tea party patriots in enthusiastically denouncing the president's bash-crazy strategy. They need to point out that whatever momentary glee anyone gets from poking a brokerage exec in the ribs with a hard stick won't put food on anyone's plate or buy baby's diapers. GOPers need to announce that the supposedly out-of-fashion Reaganomics is suddenly and permanently back in fashion. That means that Republicans need to fan out across the country and across the alternative media arguing for fiscal discipline, smaller government, lower taxes, and fewer but effective regulations. They're required to talk about freeing entrepreneurs, clearing the way for small businesses, and encouraging manufacturing and resource production in the good old United States. They need to say enough with outsourcing vital industries and sectors to keep the NIMBY (not in my backyard) folk and greenies happy or to save minnows.
In Congress, Republicans need to continue to play Dr. No, throwing up roadblock after roadblock to the president's and Democrats' economy-wrecking machinations and grandstanding. All the while, Michael Steele needs to arm his congressional candidates with reams of talking points in favor of a rebirth of economic freedom. Republican candidates are likely winners this November if they confidently tell voters that they're for less government and more freedom -- and mean it.
To trot out another shopworn cliché, the GOP needs to focus on the economy like a laser beam -- and stay focused, because that's where America's attention rightly is.