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Monday, August 24, 2009

Told You They Were Killing Themselves (In a Political Sense, That Is)

The post-election talk of a permanent Democratic majority is looking a little funny now--and, whenever I run across a true believer spouting the same kind of talk over the last few weeks in blogs and message boards, it’s downright hilarious. While the American public staged a painful spanking of the GOP, that doesn’t mean it isn’t noticing the bullying, hypocrisy, and overreach by an increasingly out-of-touch and belligerent Democratic majority. While we’re still a long way out from the actual voting, it would be pretty surprising if the right doesn’t take a big chunk out of that supposedly unassailable Democratic majority. Enough, in fact, that they might be able to function as a strong opposition party--a feat that they would be utterly incapable of right now if it weren’t for the left’s incompetence, increasing public outrage over government spending and the handling of some of President Obama’s signature policy issues (specifically, health care and cap-and-trade), and the blue dog Democrats who have made it possible for the Republican’s paltry numbers to be meaningful in this debate.

The GOP should be thanking Joe and Jane Public for taking interest in the political process this year and rank-and-file Democrats for treating Joe and Jane as if they were un-patriotic buffoons for daring to question their policy dictates.

Politically, for the left, the health care debate really is starting to look like political suicide.

It’s the highest stakes ever for a Nevada election, and former boxer Sen. Harry Reid is on the ropes early. Either Republican Danny Tarkanian or Sue Lowden would knock out Reid in a general election, according to a recent poll of Nevada voters.

The results suggest the Democratic Senate majority leader will have to punch hard and often in order to retain his position as the most accomplished politician in state history, in terms of job status.

Nevadans favored Tarkanian over Reid 49 percent to 38 percent and Lowden over Reid 45 percent to 40 percent, according to the poll.

As I’ve said before, though, if the GOP really wants to capitalize on this moment in a meaningful way, it needs to do more than sit back and watch the carnage. It needs to offer a meaningful and substantial alternative to the left’s excesses; it needs to be, again, a conservative party with principled conservative leadership that stands for something other than merely being better than the alternative (and not always even that).

For Democrats, it’s a tough situation. Any Democrat in a centrist or conservative state and any Democrat that won small in their last election probably wants some cover going into the mid-terms. They want the freedom to vote against unpopular legislation regardless of their own position on the subject. With health care, they aren’t getting that cover, and it may well be the defining issue going into the next elections.

It doesn’t help that the president is proving to be less popular and more divisive than many of his supporters expected. Staring down the muzzle of more than doubling the huge national debt over the next decade certainly isn’t helping his cause, but neither is the dismissive tone coming from the White House.

Before White House press secretary Robert Gibbs left town, he tried to clarify President Barack Obama’s comment that “everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up.” Gibbs explained to reporters that what the president meant was that they were a bunch of bed wetters who made too much out of the implosion of the White House health care strategy.

Gibbs has grown more sardonic and patronizing as the summer wears on and Obama’s poll numbers wilt.

The press secretary has lectured reporters on the nature of their jobs — apparently to defend the administration against “misinformation” rather than asking impertinent questions like “How will you pay for it?”

Is the Obama presidency already in danger? Hardly. The Democrats still have numbers and the public still harbors some mistrust of the GOP. But every week that goes by sees the president further and further back on his heels and he is in danger of losing the health care debate--a loss that would probably define him as more politically weak than anyone could have guessed.

For me, this is a tough thing to watch. I had hoped that Obama would govern well--that he would be moderate and careful, that he would reach across the aisle and help give the country some common cause to rally behind. I didn’t vote for him, but I wanted him to succeed (which, in case you’re reading this wrong, meant that I wanted him to have the right policies, the right ideas, and the right kind of leadership for our times). I don’t like watching any president fail because that means that the country is in worse shape at the end of his tenure than it was beforehand.

I’m becoming increasingly worried that we’re going to experience a profoundly failed presidency and that the damage is going to stretch far into our country’s future.

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