Where Now?

by Victor Davis Hanson // NRO’s The Corner 

The government gridlock is, to use now politically incorrect metaphors, only one lost battle in a long campaign, and we are now back to the original proposition of watching the administration try to implement Obamacare. We know the president does exceedingly well when he can campaign against the forces of darkness, but when attention, even for a moment, turns to his own efforts — Obamacare; the stimulus; Solyndra; cash for clunkers, Benghazi; the AP, IRS, and NSA scandals; gun control; Syria, etc. — as it will now for a few weeks until the next psychodramatic “war” against someone, he flounders.

And while the glitches and signup problems of Obamacare should ameliorate, and while no doubt some of the uninsured will eventually sign up, the real contributors to its unpopularity are fundamental and probably won’t go away soon.

All the president’s promises will probably stay broken: Premiums will go up, not down; young people of a mostly downscale cohort will have to be taxed to pay for others and so resist; the deficit will not be helped; existing plans will be altered; doctors will be less not more accessible; businesses will not enjoy a new competitiveness; exemptions for administration pets will continue.

Critics of the defunding movement lamented that without such easy targets, the media over the last two weeks would have had to focus on the lapses on Obamacare. Now there is no such excuse; the problems are still mounting; and we shall see how they are reported.

Recently in a press conference the president bragged that he had lowered the deficit, a boast — similar in its disingenuousness, to claims of authorship of the new gas and oil production — and possible despite, not because of, his efforts to stop the sequestration. But deficits and debt are not going away, and raising the debt ceiling is as unpopular as Obamacare. If higher taxes on the upper-income brackets, the winding down of foreign wars, a supposed economic recovery, and sequestration still give us $700 billion in annual deficits, it will be hard to keep defending the out-of-control spending.

Ramming through amnesty will probably not be popular either, given that its details are as incoherent as those of Obamacare. “Comprehensive” immigration reform, if given cursory scrutiny, will turn out to be far more than just giving “dreamers” who played by the rules a fair shot; “legal”-immigration-reform proposals will still inordinately favor family and ethnic considerations, not racially blind merit and skill criteria; the public still does not trust government claims about border security; the pathway to citizenship will still extend green cards to those with criminal records, including DUIs, and long residence on public assistance.

If the Republicans learned anything from the recent ordeal, it should have been to redirect efforts to the working and middling classes. Why, for example, battle for a gargantuan farm bill that is a gift to agribusinesses (at a time of record commodity prices, no less), not small farmers, to the degree that any of the latter left? More gas and oil drilling on federal lands is a winning issue, will help lower energy and fuel costs for the public, and offers the quickest way to provide more good jobs. Luring energy-intensive industries back to the U.S. should also be a conservative cause. In contrast, Obamacare, more borrowing, amnesty, and using government to hinder federal leases and Keystone are not popular issues, and do not appeal to the working classes. How could there be a tea-party-vs.-establishment Republican fight over that?

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