Failing To See The Obvious At CNN – It’s The Agenda, Stupid

Princeton professor Julian Zielizer poses an important question at CNN: 

How should we understand the fate of a president and a party who have been relatively successful at passing their agenda, yet don’t seem to be enjoying an electoral bounce?

He then blows the answer. 

Well, not entirely.  He gets part of it right — jobs, or the lack of them. 

But by quickly moving on from that recognition as if the failure of the job market to recover were simply a force of nature that we can do nothing about, Zielizer betrays a lack of understanding of the root cause of our current malaise.  It is the spending that is continuing, the taxes that are coming, and the massive expansion of the regulatory state that is only just beginning that are deepening and lengthening the jobless not-much-of-a-recovery.

Zielizer then he wanders into the wasteland: 

The first factor has to do with President Obama’s decision to focus on controversial issues that he felt were important to the nation, even if they were not the most beneficial issues for his party. In other words, Obama selected issues such as health care and financial regulation that were sure to stimulate conservative opposition and cause concern among moderates.

At the same time, the president is a pragmatic politician who has been willing to cut deals to survive a notoriously difficult legislative process. In making those compromises, he has often angered many of his supporters on the left. The strategy of going big, yet doing so through big compromises, has resulted in an energized conservative movement, uneasy independent voters and a frustrated liberal base.

Yes, Obama focused on controversial issues.  But to assert that an agenda passed with somewhere between 0 and  1-2 votes on the other side of the aisle reflects a “pragmatic politician who has been willing to cut deals to survive a notoriously difficult legislative process” is nuts.  To the contrary, it reflects an ideologue who has been forced to grudgingly cut deals within his own party to pass a far left agenda that scares the hell out of independents.  That is why the middle has utterly abandoned Obama, the conservatives are energized, and vast numbers of tea party activists sprang up in a true grass-roots movement to push back.

Indeed, the next paragraph reveals that Zielizer is focused entirely on disaffection on the left, which he somehow appears to believe accounts for Obama’s tanking numbers:

Given that Barack Obama ran a primary campaign in which he promised to pursue transformative politics and avoid the kind of compromises embraced by President Clinton, this has caused disappointment. Recent comments by the administration dismissing its liberal critics has only intensified bad feelings.

This is incorrect as a factual matter, plus some really bad analysis.  First, the transformative politics Obama campaigned on was a transformation from the nasty partisanship of the past eight years (we can agree to disagree as to the source of the nastiness).  He did not compaign on avoiding the (quite popular) compromises embraced by President Clinton.  It is Obama’s abandonment of the promise of post-partisanship — to the extent that it was ever something he even cared about, which I doubt — to pursue the most partisan agenda in most of our lifetimes that intensified bad feelings among independents and the Republicans that Obama convinced to cross party lines and vote for him. 

“[B]ad feelings” among liberal critics are irrelevant.  The left will support Obama regardless.  Who else are they going to support, the Republicans in Congress?  Sarah Palin?  Mitt Romney?  The left are not the problem; it is the rest of the country Obama has lost.

And Zielizer’s concluding recommendation makes no sense at all:

Rather than complain about what the public thinks or dismiss liberals as unrealistic, Obama would do better to be more responsive to public concerns, with joblessness at the top of his list. The president must give serious consideration to another stimulus package, and be willing to spend the kind of political capital that he used in pushing for health care and financial regulation. He must also be willing to look at some of the shortcomings of the first bill, such as insufficient funds for public works projects and for assistance to the states.

Let me get this straight.  The first spendulous package , which mostly propped-up state budgets and paid for random liberal pet projects, was a failure.  And the voters know it.  According to a recent poll,  65% said that the economy would be in the same shape or better without our having wasted that $800 Billion.  Yet Zielizer’s prescription is more cowbell? 

In any event, Obama does not have any political capital to spend on a second stimulus that essentially matches the plan of the first failed one — remember the promise that it would focus on “shovel-ready” public works projects.  Well, the Dems either lied about what the stimulus money was going to be spent on, or they failed to implement it correctly, or it was an abject failure.  My money is on all three. 

The answer to the good professor’s opening question is simple, to channel James Carville — it’s the agenda, stupid.

Via Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.


Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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