Obama Seeking to Protect His Core Agenda

Is there any issue on which Obama and the American people are in agreement?

He insists the stimulus was effective.  The American people disagree, yet Obama continues to push even more of the exact same kind of spending.

He insists that ObamaCare will be good for the country.  A significant majority supports repeal.

He proposes regulating carbon emissions any which way he can.  It is even more unpopular than his plan to nationalize the health care industry.

He refuses to secure the border and sues the state of Arizona, opposing well over 60% of the American public.

He promised to end too big to fail, and now we have an expensive, complicated financial reform bill seen as ineffective by most Americans.

He pushed a moratorium on drilling in the gulf, undermining the rule of law by ignoring a judicial decision against him and ignoring a sizable majority of the American people.

And now, he lends his considerable support to building a massive mosque right next to the former site of the World Trade Center, which remains a hold in the ground.  This despite the fact that the federal government is not involved in the decision.  In other words, he chose, unnecessarily and being unforced, to speak out against the will of the American people on a decision that isn’t even his to make.

I smell a rat.  Is it possible that he is trying to throw the election?  Or is he really the most radical president we’ve had since before Reagan?  Did even Jimmy Carter or Lyndon B. Johnson find it necessary to speak out against the American people on issues that didn’t even involve the White House?

There is only one way to tell.  The question is will his incredible degree of partisanship last past the election.  If he turns hard to the right, we will know he was trying to throw the election in order to improve his own election prospects in 2012, and protect his signature program:  ObamaCare.  If he doesn’t, we’ll know he is so ideological and extreme that he jumps out on these issues because he simply can’t help himself, whatever it means for the midterm elections, or even for his own re-election campaign.

Everyone in the chattering class knows that ObamaCare is the only issue that much matters.  If it remains largely untouched, the insurance industry will become the bogeymen responsible for rate increases.  The government will thus have no choice but to enter the market to put a stop to “out of control insurance and medical care costs.”  ObamaCare ensures this outcome by leaving that consumers with every incentive to stay off insurance until they get sick, thus expanding the roles of the uninsured and pushing health insurance costs spiraling through the roof.  You will hear Democrats saying things like “we gave private industry a chance to fix things, and they didn’t.”  Most likely before the end of the decade, there will be no private health insurance companies.  Malintentioned regulation of the industry will give way to direct government control.  This will be politically impossible to reverse and the US will be doomed to economic and social decay like the nations of Europe, unable to make the changes necessary to reinvigorate their economies.  Joblessness will become a permanent problem.  But, for supporters of the welfare state, that’s a political feature that justifies big-government, not an economic bug to be fixed.  Big government will be irreversible ease us into complacency and decline.  It is the final victory of the Democrats, the end of the ideological war between freedom and security.  If everything important in your life is determined by a group of 10,000, and you get one vote, are you any less a slave than if one man were your master? (hat tip Robert Nozick)

What clues do we have?  Well, we know Obama isn’t an idiot.  Whatever he’s doing its for one of those two reasons I mentioned earlier.  And we know he was willing to move to the center in 2008 to combat the growing perception that he was a radical and win the election.  We know he will abandon anyone he feels is necessary for his own political skin.  Its my impression that he is trying to throw the election.  Why else put himself out there on issues like the ground zero Mosque controversy where it has no practical effect?  Its not going to be decided tomorrow, he could have waited until after the election.  The conclusion is inescapable.  Look for Obama to suddenly turn conservative on every issue that doesn’t touch his core entitlement agenda.  He may even toss his redistributionist agenda (tax the rich) agenda under the bus.

Avoiding Partisanship

Republicans will not control the Presidency until January 2013 at the earliest. This unpleasant fact means Republicans in Congress will be severely hamstrung by the veto pen. It means that most, though not all, of what Republicans do will likely not be substantive, but instead be primarily political in its effects. Oh well, if it must be two years of political theater, lets at least put on a good show that will have people asking for an encore in 2012.  We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes of 1995-1996 that allowed Bill Clinton to get reelected.  The recession has brought a fiscal crisis to America that we all thought we had another few years to sort out, and that politicians apparently thought would never come at all.  For decades, government spending has hovered between 18 and 21 percent of GDP.  Obama has increased it to 25%, and entitlement spending is set to move that towards 40, which, combined with state spending, would leave government in control of over half of the economy.  We have only two options- raise taxes dramatically, or don’t spend the money.  Seeing as raising taxes will choke off growth, it may not even be possible for the country to meet its future spending obligations on the present path.  On the other hand, if we cut into spending, we will find that economic growth eases the pain of solving our fiscal mess.

Since Obama ain’t going anywhere for the next couple of years, what Republicans should avoid doing is at least as important as what they actually pass. The most important thing is to give Americans a taste of grown-up government, the kind of serious government that Democrats promised and failed to deliver. After more than four years of bitter political hatred and partisanship pushed by the Democratic Party and their fellow travelers in the media, who’s main (only?) arguments have been “Blame Bush” and “Cry Racism,” people will be grateful for a Republican Party that seeks to do the people’s work and avoid nasty partisan bickering. Where Republicans can work with Democrats, they should. I don’t see Obama pursuing Clintonian triangulation, so let the people see him as a wacko obstructionist.

Part of this means no unnecessary witch hunts. Sure, some people like Attorney General Eric Holder have to be forced out of office. (FWIW, I think Holder will step down during the lame duck session.) However, Republicans can’t come across as putting the interests of the party over the country. Democrats do this consistently (see Iraq II and the political machine which recycles your money through favored constituencies into political donations and votes for politicians which, when elected, dole out your money to favored constituencies…) and I’ll be damned if I see my party acting the same way, regardless of the issue. We can’t be seen attempting to damage the President, and we shouldn’t be trying anyway. He is the President, and he is tasked with carrying on our foreign policy. A weak President at home makes our enemies think America herself is weak and divided. We cannot afford this mistake as a nation, and the voters will punish Republicans for it in 2012 to boot. Bad for the nation, bad for the party.

Mitch Daniels for President

This is an out of order post, but Mitch Daniels’ national profile has been rising lately and I wanted to get my views out there while everyone is talking about him, since he is my favorite candidate. He was on Fox News Sunday and has been the recent subject of articles on Pajamas Media and the Wall Street Journal (which is a fine publication I read every day.) If you read my very first post, which gave me the name for my blog, he is the guy who I think can lead this country to the promised land of smaller government and a more effective foreign policy. I don’t believe political leaders can be our salvation and solve every problem. I don’t swoon the way the left did over Obama. However, a no-nonsense politician like Mitch Daniels can clear the way for the people of this country to get back to work and keep our country great.

Mitch Daniels is the anti-Obama in my mind. On both style and substance, he is Obama’s 180 degree opposite. He is no rock star. He is a CPA, and I think our nation could use an accountant in charge instead of a community organizer. He is mild-mannered, plain-spoken and humble. I’m convinced he doesn’t want to run for President, but he will run out of a sense of duty if he thinks his country needs him. Obama, by contrast, wanted to run for President for the glamour of the office, but doesn’t actually want to have to get his hands dirty leading this nation.

Mitch Daniels is an extremely successful two-term governor from the state of Indiana, for those who don’t know. While New Jersey and Louisiana (Louisiana seems godforsaken these days, and I say this with love for the state.  In addition, I’m not sure Jindal has the political acumen to run a national campaign) need their governors, Mitch Daniels has already finished putting Indiana on the best possible path by dealing with many of the same entitlement spending issues facing our nation today. He has proved himself as a Reagan like leader capable of battling special interests and taking the case for Conservatism over the heads of the politicians and speaking directly, honestly, and persuasively to the American people. He is a good man; there are no skeletons in his closet.

Some have latched on to his recent comments on a social truce. So what? The best social conservatives can possibly hope for is a truce. Abortion never was illegal everywhere, and it never will be. We just want the right to control it state by state and overturn the awful jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade. Same thing goes for gay marriage. Up until now, Progressives have clearly been winning the culture wars. A truce is a victory for social conservatism, a return to the status quo ante, if you will. Live and let live; not everything should be an issue of federal concern.

Compared with his record, I find every other potential candidate has serious drawbacks.

Sarah Palin is viewed unfavorably by the independents in this country. Fair or not, she has an uphill battle to fight against her caricature in the media, and I’ve seen no evidence she is up to the task.

Newt Gingrich made a series of costly missteps as leader of the Republican Congress, and his personal baggage continues to drag on his candidacy. For those that don’t remember, he lost the government shutdown debate in 1995, and resigned after Republican losses in 1998. He divorced his wife for a younger model while she had cancer. While he was far more honorable in his treatment of her than John Edwards was of his wife, the American people have no tolerance for such hardhearted action. He is a great conservative red meat kind of guy, but he has serious drawbacks and it is my opinion that whatever connection he once had with the great center in this country he has long since lost. Don’t get me wrong, I like Newt, but more as a commentator, strategist, and policy guy than a candidate for President.

Mike Huckabee? Don’t make me laugh. He’s the last thing we need, another big-government conservative to ruin the reputation of the party. Presidents can only focus on so many things at one time, and he would pursue divisive social issues at a time when we have far more serious problems than the never-ending culture wars. If we can succeed in reducing the size of the federal government and get another pro-life vote on the Supreme Court, there won’t be nearly so much policy to fight over at the national level anymore. Right now government is involved in literally every aspect of our lives and therefore politics are about everything. John Q. Wilson said, “Once politics used to be about just a few things. Now politics are about nearly everything.” (hat tip to George Will) People are balkanizing over issues that should be local or private matters and not a cause for dispute. Mike Huckabee will not help us shrink the size of government, and he’s liable not to win, meaning we don’t get that Supreme Court justice. While he is a likable guy, he is much more of a populist than he is a libertarian, and that’s really not acceptable. Reagan once said that the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism (hat tip to Rand Paul).

David Petraeus won’t run, and we need him more where he is anyway.

I don’t trust Mitt Romney as far as I can throw him. We don’t need another Panderer-in-Chief. Who knows what he really stands for?

Mitch Daniels is the only successful two-term governor popular with his base and with independents who is likely to run. He provides exactly the right kind of contrast to Obama’s celebrity style and incompetent, free-spending, reality challenged Presidency. He is running because people in the establishment, who know all the problems with the other guys, see him as the only viable candidate. He is simply miles ahead of everyone else.

Update:  I forgot to mention Haley Barbour.  I like him just as well, frankly, but I think Daniels is more electable.  The image of a Mississippian running against the first black President probably won’t play well.  On the other hand, the more liberal elites make fun of Mississippi, the more it is likely to separate them from average Joes everywhere.

Will the “Stupid” Party Screw Things Up?

My last few posts have described American forces working for Republicans independent of what Republican actually do.  They are largely mechanical. It is not enough, however, to cement a Conservative revolution. Republicans are often called the “stupid party,” because it seems they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Here’s why they’re less likely to screw things up this time:

Republicans are scared. They know if they fail to defeat Obama’s radical changes between now and 2014, the Democrats will have enough voters sucking on the government teat that they will almost certainly not have another opportunity to fix things until the country goes bankrupt. Even then, reform attempts will be dicey, as evidenced by abortive attempts at reform in the bankrupt nations of Europe. Republicans know they absolutely have to get this right, and even with good polls or a big majority in Congress they will probably stay hungry and not take success for granted. They shouldn’t take success for granted, because it is by no means inevitable. Conservative leaders in and out of government office know this.

America’s top concerns are largely in-line with the top concerns of the Conservative base of the Republican party. This should keep Republican goals in line with politically popular positions. In a way, this is a natural result of the most important factor working for Conservatives: this is a Conservative country. Next posts will detail how the Conservative agenda matches the American agenda, and how Republicans should govern to win back the trust of the American people and be more than the party that isn’t the Democrats.

The Senate Pendulum

The math in the Senate is horrible for Democrats after two wave elections. Democrats defend 19 seats to the Republicans’ 18 this year, and I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance of Republicans taking back the Senate this cycle. The Senate looks worse for the Democrats from there. In 2012, Dems defend 23 seats to the Republicans’ 10. If Obama’s approval doesn’t get any better, its possible Republicans could have a filibuster proof super-majority just two cycles after the Democrats won a similar number of Senate seats. In 2014, Republicans defend 13 seats and Democrats defend 20. It seems likely therefore that after the next two cycles there will be a Republican super-majority in the Senate, perhaps even a Conservative one. After three cycles, the chances of Conservative Senate dominance are even higher. Keep in mind also that the Senate is a Republican chamber because of the extra weight given to states with low populations, which are more often Conservative states. This helps Republicans to pick up Senate seats, and also to hold them for the long term. This is especially true in the Senate due to its strong traditions of seniority which mean that many of these Republicans will serve in the Senate for decades as their power and utility to their home state voters grows.

Redistricting and Enduring Political Change

The outcome of the 2010 election will have a lasting impact on Congressional elections. Republicans are likely to have sole authority over the redistricting of almost half of the Congressional districts, and share control over almost all the rest. Sean Trende and others have recently written about this. Combined with the Republicans’ inherent advantage in Congress due to the concentration of liberal voters in urban districts, there is a strong chance that the 2010 takeover of Congress by Republicans will be enduring.

Political Economy

Republican candidates during the next two election cycles will, unfortunately, be aided by a high unemployment rate. Fiscal consolidation the world round will restrain growth. Already, the polls show Republicans winning by as big a margin as Democrats did in 2008, implying a reversal of the current situation, an 80 seat flip. While there is no reason to think the numbers will improve for Democrats, the longer unemployment stays high the worse Democrats’ prospects will look. High levels of consumer savings and reduced government deficits will be good for growth in the long run, but deprive it of the short-run demand required to get people back to work soon. Central banks all over the world are aware of the doubt in financial markets that they can withdraw their support and avoid high inflation. However, this is offensive to central bankers and they will fight against this notion. These banks are independent and tasked first with controlling inflation, not attaining full employment. They will begin raising rates before traditional levels of employment are reached, to the ire of Obama’s supporters. Weak demand and the anticipation of higher taxes and more regulations will restrain business investment, and the inventory rebuilding story is already over. To top it all off, even if the economy begins to grow fast enough to keep up with population and productivity growth, people who have exited the labor force will begin looking for work again, keeping the reported unemployment rate high. This is because U3 is the reported rate and does not take into account “discouraged workers” who have left the labor force until the market improves. U6, which does count these workers, shows real unemployment in the US over 15%. The unemployment rate in the US probably will not peak for several more months, according to most economists. This is due to the fact that economic growth is not keeping pace with productivity improvements and population growth, as I described in an earlier post. Roughly, the economy must grow 2.8% annually to hold unemployment steady. Current estimates for the second half of 2010 are for a 1.5% annual growth rate. White House Chief Economic Advisor Christina Romer now estimates that unemployment will not fall under 8% until the end of 2012, almost four years after Obama promised his stimulus would keep unemployment under 8%. Having majored in economics, I think these predictions are spot on, and they spell serious trouble for Democrats in 2010 and 2012.