Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Early Stages of the Democrats’ Suicide March

That, according to David Brooks, is what we’re seeing right now. The president isn’t giving us any real leadership, and the result people are losing confidence in his policies, even as they still like him personally. People really didn’t think they were voting for government by Pelosi, especially when it comes to health care. They voted in good faith that Obama would be too smart to let that happen.

Discussions - 10 Comments

This post reminds me of the "rolling realignment" NLT days back in 2004 . . .

Peter: I really think that this is a strange argument and that the GOP is in danger of believing its own spin. Health care reform is a popular idea. The line about "bureaucrats" coming between you and your doctor only goes so far, since people know that insurance bureaucrats already do that, and they do it in part by denying coverage outright.

When confronted with real problems in the US health delivery system, Mitch McConnell on Sunday repeated poll data about whether Americans were satisfied with their health coverage. We've gone from saying that we're the best to saying that some majority think that they're doing OK right now.

In addition, when even Jim DeMint says that the way to reform health care is to give everyone a government handout of $5000 per family, you know that the debate isn't between those who want government to act and those who don't. It's about how government should act. Democrats are simply more trusted on those issues, it seems.

The Democrats have not begun a public relations push on health care reform yet. They wisely waited until the confirmation hearings subsided. I doubt that the landscape will look the same in a few weeks after a bill makes it to the Senate floor.

How was Bush's domestic agenda conservative? The prescription drug benefit and amnesty were two of its signiture initiatives. Admittedly symbolic issues like Terry Schaivo did play to the base. But Bush didn't even make a very big deal about the born alive infants act. I'm not sure where social security reform fits into the spectrum. Conservatives like it, but so does the wonkocracy.

As Mickey Kaus keeps noting, health security is a big seller. People like their health care well enough. They worry about losing it. The question is one of means, not ends, I suspect. Brooks pays a good deal of attention, perhaps too much attention, to tone.

Brooks is no GOP apologist, but I think he makes several mistakes,

1. He is projecting forward the trends of the (very recent) present. Obama's ratings and credibility are going down as unemployment goes up. A reversal of unemployment and economic growth (even if the recovery is weak by historical standards) will work to Obama's favor.

2. He assumes that the liberal policies are the products of insular dumb, stubborn, congressional liberals. This is giving Obama both too much and too little credit. Brooks is assuming that Obama is too smart to be as liberal as his policies. This is, and has always been wishful thinking. Obama is very, very, liberal and his record has always pointed us to that conclusion. The fact that Obama can seem so much more moderate is a testament to his rhetorical skills.

3. The Democrat approach to healthcare is losing political altitude, but we should try to apply a dynamic rather than static analysis (as the supply siders taught us to). If a state-run system passes Congress and is implemented, it will change people's incentives even if the healthcare reform is unpopular on the day it passes. The destruction of the private insurance market for the working and middle-classes will make them both more dependent on the government and more risk averse. The destruction of the private market will mean that in any attempt to scale back government involvement, the middle and working classes will not see the substitution of a government run system with a functioning private insurance system. They will see a government run system (however flawed) versus the abyss. The promise of a better, market driven system, will be jus that, a promise. That would be a tough argument for conservative to make. Even if people didn't vote for Pelosicare, if the existing private alternatives are destroyed (and that more than expanding coverage seems to be the purpose of the Democratic bills), they might feel stuck with it if the alternative of the moment seems like nothing at all.

4 Brett is right that we should not underestimate Obama's ability to temporarily allay public concerns about his policies. His stimulus was sinking before Obama launched a pr push that improved the stimulus bill's rating enough for the Democrats in Congress to feel comfortable voting for the bill. The situation is different now. Obama really is less popular and less trusted. The stakes are bigger. There are limits to how many times a President can pull off the trick of turning around public opinion with a speech or series of speeches. I still have a bad feeling.

Bottomline: It takes more than being pretty, and knowing how to speak well from a script to be a successful president. Obama was not qualified for the presidency during the election, and he is not qualified now. Mediocre intelligence, obviously ignorant of American traditions, precedents, and even the constitution, and without a clue about the requirements of the "bully pulpit" (witness the photo ops eating ice cream while the streets in Tehran ran with blood). A slight majority of the voters were fooled, but now they are waking up. God, I miss George, and rational, adult government. Say what you will, George W. Bush never acted like a thirteen-year-old with his first credit card. Obama is even worse than Clinton, though not as bad as Carter, but give him time.

God, I hope I'm wrong, but I think Pete's right. About it passing, and about the horror of his point #3. The numbers and the incentives of blue-dogs to stick are daunting.

On the other hand, Bush's "heck of a job Brownie" moment was much worse than Obama's eating ice cream while Tehran burns. Another element of Bush's low popularity, that had little to do with his ideology. Brooks is simply wrong about Bush governing as a conservative. And I forgot to mention No Chile Left beind, a bill that is very unpopular with many liberal constituencies, but that was drafted by Ted Kennedy's staff. Again, not conservative.

Why would you believe anything Brooks predicts?

Brooks, a RINO/BLUEDOG in his own mind, insulated in NY, and surrounded by socialists, doesn't know shingles from Shinola. The Republicans lost all the moderates (and me) because Bush & Co. turned into a tax and spend carbon copy of liberals, and walked away from their Contract for America.

Brooks factually points out the Repubs acted like liberals: "They spent federal money in an effort to buy support but ended up disgusting the country instead." Then in a huge disconnect, he irrationally concludes it was southern conservatives (anti-tax and anti-spenders) who drove the moderates out of the party. What a dunce!

This Sarah Palin hater (calls her a cancer) was born in Canada, for cripe sakes, a country 100% full of libs and socialists, but the libs think they are conservatives when they compare themselves to the socialists. I doubt Brooks has ever spent a day in the Heartland - IA, IN, NE, KS, OK, TX, AZ, CO, et al, talking to real people.

Have a nice day!

pete may well be right on no. 3. obama has the votes and is not lacking in confidence, as dionne says. and once the "reform" passes, it's easy to see that going back is very unlikely. and i agree it's obvious that brooks overstates his case. with bush, the problem was the perception of massive incompetence and cluelessness, and obama hasn't had any real meltdowns.

Brooks says, "Last week, the administration announced a proposal to take Medicare spending decisions away from Congress and lodge the power with technocrats in the executive branch. It’s a good idea, and it might lead to real cost savings. But there’s no reason to think that it will be incorporated into the final law. The chairmen will never surrender power to an administration they can override."


Brooks is rather more comfortable with the administrative state Progressives and their liberal children created than any conservative can afford to be. He seems not to care a whit about the delegation of legislative authority to the executive branch, or, even worse, to only mildly accountable administrative agencies.

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