Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Like Obama? Blame George Bush

Obama's popularity with the American electorate is in free-fall. Rasumssen Reports website, which does daily polling, reports:

"The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 29% of the nation's voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty percent (40%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -11. Today is the President’s fourth straight day with an Approval Index rating in negative double digits (see trends). . . . Overall, 49% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President's performance. Fifty-one percent (51%) now disapprove."

There is little mystery why the president is suddenly so unpopular with voters. 40% of voters say that cutting the deficit is the highest priority, while reforming health care is a distant second at only 21%. Yet 71% of voters think Obama's policies are driving up the deficit. Voters are pessimistic about Obama getting it right. 67% think deficit reduction is the least likely goal to be achieved, while only 7% think it is the most likely goal to be achieved.

Can we say buyer's remorse? All that hype about Obama being a centrist and a moderate doesn't look so plausible now, does it? Many Republicans and a clear majority of moderate voters, who were justifiably angry at the Republicans for starting an unnecessary war in Iraq, letting spending get out of control and exhibiting disgusting personal ethics, voted the Republicans out thinking they were getting a moderate Democratic president who would not attempt to make fundamental changes to the American economy in the midst of a recession. They thought it was safe to send the Republicans a message. Instead, they got the most hard-line, ideological leftist in congress as president.

This was clearly a tragic situation and the blame for the current mess rests more than any other on one man: George W. Bush. He should have known better than let the imperialistic hawks convince him to do something that discredited conservatism at a crucial moment. If George Bush had governed like a true conservative - emphasizing fiscal restraint, avoiding overreach in international affairs and pursuing an incrementalist policy in social conservativism as he did very effectively - then he would have been a success and Obama would now be a junior senator on the extreme left of a party without power.

The problem is not that George Bush was too conservative; the problem is that he was not conservative enough. Fiscal restraint, geopolitical restraint and gradual, organic change in social policy are characteristics of true conservatism, whereas free spending and reckless interventionism are marks of a kind of nationalistic, utopianism that cries: "we can spread democracy to every country of the world with our army."

Now it appears that the Republican Party will be given another chance. The last thing the GOP needs to do is move toward the center in terms of policy or do anything to alienate the social conservatives, who are essential to any future election victory. It needs to nourish its base, find a leader who does not scare moderates and purge itself of playboys and lobbyists, at least at the highest levels. It is the majority party and will get another chance at power. But it must learn from the hubris of the Bush administration and not take for granted the good will of the electorate.

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