September 4 2012
Four More Years: What Would the Country Be Like?
Carrie makes the point that we don’t really have to ask if we are better off than we were four years ago.
It is also important to ask what the country will be like after four more years of the same (or worse) policies. Would a little more patience with President Obama mean that one of these summers really would be Recovery Summer?
Ramesh Ponnuru imagines a second term in a Bloomberg column. It starts with President Obama’s vision of what will happen regarding opposition to his policies, even, as is 99 % certain, that Republicans hold the House:
Obama responded, “Well, there are a couple things that I think would change. No. 1, the American people will have voted. They will have cast a decisive view on how we should move the country forward, and I would hope that the Republican Party, after a fulsome debate, would say to itself, we need to listen to the American people.”
In another recent interview, Obama likened the Republican opposition to him to a “blister” that will be “popped” by the election (an image for which I will not soon forgive him).
Ponnuru thinks that President Obama is kidding himself and that, if he is re-elected, the Republicans will move right, not left.
Republicans, especially at the grassroots level, would react to Obama’s re-election by assuming that Romney failed because he was too moderate. That’s a very widespread view among Republicans about why Senator John McCain lost in 2008. During the primaries, many of Romney’s opponents argued that he would lose because he would fail to energize conservatives. This interpretation of 2008 is probably wrong, and it will probably be the wrong explanation for a Romney defeat, if it happens. It will nonetheless be an appealing theory for conservatives.
The Republicans aren’t going to change. Judging from the interview, neither will the president. He said that after the election he would tell Republicans “you no longer need to be focused on trying to beat me; what you need to be focused on and what you should have been focused on from the start is how do we advance the American economy.” He would reiterate that he has always been open to compromise. And he would “look at how we can work around Congress,” if needed.
In other words, after winning he will lecture Republicans about how their positions are insincere and adopted purely for political reasons; he will insist that his existing positions are already a compromise with them; and he will try to govern unilaterally. These tactics seem unlikely to produce the desired results. Obama has, after all, adopted all of them, and they haven’t worked.
Ponnuru predicts gridlock and says that President Obama will lack a mandate go govern because of the kind of campaign he has waged. But I’ll one up Ramesh on the pessimism front: the president had a Democratic Congress but he didn’t have a mandate from the people to push through Obamacare. He didn't seem to care. President Obama seems to care most of all about the transformation of our country into something more in harmony with faculty lounge “idealism,” with or without a mandate. Much of this transformation rests on more regulation and higher taxes.