Obama’s Great Race to Change America

by Victor Davis Hanson

Tribune Media Services

Why does President Obama want to implement radical changes in American foreign policy, environmental policy, education, health care, and the tax code all at once?

The answer is easy: If he does not achieve these initiatives soon, he never will.

Almost none of Obama’s proposed policies any longer enjoy majority support among voters — and many of them were not clearly outlined to voters during the campaign.

Current polls show more Americans are against than in favor of his version of health-care reform. Nearly seven in ten are wary of government takeovers of the economy, like the bank and car bailouts. Over half do not want more borrowing and higher deficits.

In response, Obama and the technocrats around him insist they know better than the average voter what is in America’s long-term environmental, health, educational, and financial interests. So they’re rushing to save us from ourselves by planning all sorts of legislation that would change our lifestyles.

Even without popular support for individual policy changes, a still-personally-popular Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress hope to ram these policies through based on the president’s charisma and their legislative majorities.

White House politicos hold up Franklin Delano Roosevelt as their model. He likewise came into office after economic upheaval and spoke with eloquence — and used both to permanently move American society markedly to the left in ways undreamed of a few years earlier.

Unfortunately for Obama, there is some indication that, despite his constant TV appearances and nonstop interviews, time is running out — and he may not remain popular long enough to push through his liberal agenda.

Why is he winded?

First, he ran on a promise not to raise taxes on 95 percent of American households. But even with his proposed new income, payroll, and surcharge taxes on the so-called wealthy, his administration will run a $2 trillion annual deficit.

Even members of the Obama administration, like Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, are now not ruling out some sort of new tax on everyone.

Second, Obama billed himself as a novel, transcendent candidate above partisanship, racial politics, and the usual Washington sleaze.

But he has earned almost no bipartisan support for his proposed legislation. After six months in office, he still blames George Bush for much of the country’s problems.

When Attorney General Eric Holder called Americans “cowards” for not discussing race honestly, when Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor claimed Latina judges would make wiser decisions than white male judges in some cases, and when the president himself said police had “stupidly” arrested his friend Henry Louis Gates, the public saw more of the old tired identity politics.

And despite promises of a new ethics in Washington, there are still tax avoiders and revolving-door lobbyists in the Obama administration, just like in any other past presidency.

Third, there is a vague sense of foreboding about the future and the direction the country is taking. The amount of money George Bush proposed the government borrow at the end of his presidency now looks small. “Trillion” has replaced “billion” as the common referent for deficits.

If things are tough now, what will we do when interest rates rise from their present historic lows and we must pay back the borrowing at much higher rates?

There are plenty more questions. Will gas prices climb when the economy improves? And if so, why aren’t we talking more about developing more domestic oil, gas, shale, tar sands, and nuclear energy, in addition to wind and solar power?

Is it wise to alienate democratic Israel while making overtures with Iran? If apologizing abroad wins applause in the short term, will such contrition only earn contempt and invite some hostile countries to try things they otherwise would not?

So, will Obama race through his agenda before his approval ratings drop further, and he becomes personally as unpopular as his radical initiatives?

If, in the next few months, the economy surges back, if Obama and his advisers avoid any more divisive racial sermonizing, if the world abroad remains quiet, if the opposition fails to offer constructive alternatives, and if Obama does not renege on more past promises, then he may yet win his race to change America.

But right now that’s a lot of ifs.

©2009 Tribune Media Services

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