Friday, January 22, 2010

Obama and the Revival of American Conservatism

A couple of weeks ago I predicted that by year end Obama would be less popular than Sarah Palin and that there would be rumblings about a primary challenge to him from within his own party. Well, things are moving faster than anyone could have imagined at the beginning of the year.

1. The victory of Republican Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election to fill the seat mace vacant by the death of Ted Kennedy is something of a miracle. Nobody saw this coming. The Kennedy family had held this seat since 1952 and the last Republican elected to the senate from Massachusetts was in 1972. Massachusetts has 37% of its voters registered as Democrats and only 12% registered as Republicans. But Independents outnumber both parties combined at 51%. So this was a signal of where the independent vote, that was so crucial to electing Obama, is going this year. Given that conservatives outnumber liberals in every state in the union and that Democrats have to win big among independents/moderates in order to beat the Republican, the forecast looks bleak for Democrats in November 2012. I now think the Republicans will win control of the House and take a real run at the Senate, although they probably won't gain a majority there until 2012 when more seats are up for election.

Victor Davis Hanson discusses the backlash against Obama's policies that made this stunning result happen.

2. The first poll showing Obama trailing a potential 2012 challenger was published today by PPP
For the first time in one of our monthly polls looking ahead to the 2012 Presidential election Barack Obama trails one of his hypothetical opponents, albeit by the smallest of margins.
Mike Huckabee has a 45-44 advantage over Obama, aided largely by a 44-38 lead with independents. There continues to be no evidence of any negative fallout for Huckabee after murders of police officers committed by an ex-Arkansas inmate whose sentence he had commuted. His 35/29 favorability breakdown is actually slightly better than it was in November before that incident.

Mitt Romney does the next best, trailing Obama 44-42. His favorability is 36/32, and he's the most popular Republican among independents (41/32). Romney actually matches Huckabee with GOP voters this month and gets over 50%, ending a trend in his numbers that had seemed to spell difficulty for snagging a Republican nomination.

Sarah Palin trails Obama 49-41 largely because she loses 14% of the Republican vote to him, making her the only one of the GOP candidates we tested who Obama could get double digit crossover support against. At the same time Palin continues to be the most well liked potential GOP candidate within her party- at 71% favorability. Her problem appears to be that the Republicans who don't care for her will go so far as to vote for Obama instead of her."
3. In an interview with ABC News after the shocking Scott Brown election upset in Massachusetts, Obama gave a strong indication that he does not intend to pivot and turn from big spending, high taxation, and continued government take over of businesses to focus on job creation, fiscal responsibility and moderate social policies. Surely his advisors have advised him that if he intends to "pull a Clinton" and move to the political center that this is the best moment to do it. He could pivot and deflect criticism from the left by appearing to be honoring democracy by paying attention to the voters of Massachusetts, a clearly Democratic state. But he is apparently going to go full steam ahead toward the ice berg.

In an interview with ABC News, Barack Obama has expressed contrition for his neglect of the ordinary voter.

“If there’s one thing I regret,” he told his television audience, “it’s that we were so busy just getting stuff done …that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are.” In fact, what Mr Obama and his congressional allies lost the “sense of” was not so much the need to speak to voters as the need to listen to them. But the wording of Mr Obama’s apology is significant: he seems still to believe that he can cure any national discontent and resolve any argument in his favour simply by speaking. His faith in his own rhetorical power is clearly undiminished. If he has not prevailed, it is because he has not spoken often or “directly” enough.

Yet his reference to the “American people (and) what their core values are”, suggests that he is aware that his health reforms and his philosophy of big government generally, are at odds with the genuine political values of many Americans. Has he gathered that no amount of eloquent speech-making will actually reconcile his intentions with the US voter’s fundamental views? And that his European-style elitist concept of the role of government - that those in power should simply do what they believe is best and disregard the opinions of ordinary people - will not wash in the US?"

It appears that the winds of change are blowing in America but they are about changing things back to the way they were before the most liberal president in American history took office. The headline of this story from the New York Times says it all: "Obama, With Defiant Tone, Vows to Push Agenda." I predict that Obama's presidency will do more to revitalize conservatism in America than anything in the past 100 years.

No comments: