by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
President Obama came close, but he still just cannot admit that his radical policies and their effects on the economy are the cause of his devastating political rebuke. For most of his press conference, an oddly depressed Obama voted present, as he all but said that the problems are mostly ours, not his — or at least not his agenda but perhaps an occasional inadequate communication.
In clingers fashion, he once more is talking down to us, explaining that we confused his necessary solutions with a bogeyman increase in big government, and so typically, in fright and ignorance, lashed out at his party. He is claiming the outrage grew from the same frustration that elected him, rather than arising precisely because of him and his agenda. In short, we are angry because his EU-socialist agenda is progressing too slowly and hasn’t delivered as promised — as it will in time. Perhaps then we will thank him for his proper big-government, big-spending solution.
He seems bewildered (for the first time?) that his popularity as a campaign rhetorician did not last when he became responsible for actual governance. For most of the press conference, a humbled but deer-in-the-headlights Obama half-heartedly argued that the populist outrage against his own massive debt, huge wasteful government, and elitism was really outrage against the economy he inherited, an outrage that he shares. We don’t know it, the president hints, but we are still angry at the Bush years, and yesterday mistakenly took our wrath out on Obama’s methodical, albeit too slow, efforts at recovery. In short, there was little admission whatsoever that Obama’s message and the way he pushed it turned off millions — there was no repentant Clinton, circa autumn 1994, here; instead, a shocked Obama who seems hurt that we do not appreciate him.
I don’t think the American people — who just last week heard their president boast that Republicans had to sit in the back seat, and that Latinos should punish their Republican “enemies,” and who have now given him the greatest midterm putdown in over a half-century — suddenly will pay much attention to his calls for an end to the old divisiveness.
Otherwise, I have two reactions to the election — one about the national scene, the other about my home state, California.
Had not some zealots talked of possible 90-to-100-seat gains, the Democrats would be in greater shock today at the near-historic 60+ House pick-up, along with a stunning near sweep of state legislatures and governorships, as well as gains in the Senate — and all a mere 21 months after the beginning of hope and change. The idea that we are going to copy EU socialism is dead. So is Keynesian massive borrowing. So is the promised second wave of Obamism, such as cap-and-trade and blanket amnesty. Obama’s supporters can brag that erstwhile absolutely safe senior Democratic senators like Boxer and Reid managed to get reelected, but they must understand that Obama’s vision and his method of enacting it simply turned off the vast majority of the country.
Some things also have to change on the conservative side. Congress must not remain hostage to farm-state representatives and senators, for whom the huge agricultural subsidy programs are sacrosanct; a decade ago, we went from “eliminating” those programs via the “Freedom to Farm” Act to calling farm pork a post-9/11 matter of national security. On the budget front, I doubt we will hear much talk, at least in the short term, of massive tax cuts that eventually will result in greater supply-side growth and thus greater revenue. Instead, I assume that any Republican tax-cut attempt will have to be matched in the here and now by a commensurate cut in spending, dollar for dollar — or rather, given the deficits, one dollar in tax cuts, two dollars in spending cuts. I also don’t think we will see representatives bragging of the new pork-barrel community centers they brought home, with their own names plastered on them — at least for a while.
In California, there is some irony: The philosophy that led the state to the highest tax rates in the country, along with the near-worst schools, largest deficits, and most crumbling infrastructure, was reaffirmed. Now California’s state government will have to deal with the reality that if the highest-tax state in the union raises taxes still higher, it will lose even more high earners than the current 3,000 who leave each week. A Republican Congress is not likely to bail out a bankrupt California. More likely, we will see even more of the present ad hoc government-by-euphemism. More “furloughs” instead of pay cuts for unionized public employees, “temporary” larger class sizes in the schools, more “user fees” imposed by executive order in lieu of getting new taxes passed.
The state will continue to descend into a pyramidal society. On top there is the wealthy, leftist coastal elite from Napa to Hollywood, which is seemingly immune from the effects of high taxes and regulation (and wants more green laws, gay marriage, abortion, and therapeutic bromides). The top of the pyramid is in league with a growing underclass in part dependent upon a huge entitlement industry; this coalition thus favors more taxes, entitlements, unionized public employees, open borders, etc. Meanwhile, a squeezed middle-class private sector is slowly being strangled, shutting down, and leaving.
What are we left with? Public money in California running out is, in fact, a solution of sorts.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson