It’s January and we’re watching reruns. The clueless main character and his band of misfits are struggling through another groovy episode. Barack Obama’s playing the cool lead with V.P. Joe Biden filling the role of the balding, curmudgeonly father figure. Throw in a tomboyish sidekick, a bunch of oddballs and it’s “That ’70s Show.”
It isn’t a sitcom, it’s real life. Obama might act like Ashton Kutcher’s Kelso with better clothes, but he’s really more like another ’70s character – Jimmy Carter. You remember Jimmy – the seemingly good-hearted, fish-out-of-water outsider from Plains, Ga. A public exhausted and disillusioned by Watergate narrowly gave him the presidency, and he had it made.
After squeaking by Ford, Carter came to Washington with the charm and homespun wisdom of a modern Mr. Smith. Like Obama, he was likeable. Only problem was, he was an awful president and leader. His failures cost Americans in their wallets and his party in Congress. Democrats only had a three-seat loss during the mid-term elections of 1978. But that included the GOP taking the Minnesota special election after Democratic stalwart Sen. Hubert Humphrey passed away.
In 2010, Democrats once again had a prime seat to fill. Ted Kennedy, who the media often called the “Lion of the Senate,” died and Republican Scott Brown seized the Kennedy legacy and the job. In a few weeks, a hardcore blue state turned on the Obama agenda and voted to send a no vote on health care reform to Washington.
This wasn’t just a rejection of the Obamanation. This was a rejection of the media who have hammered Obama’s view on health care reform so often that they have helped turn even Massachusetts against it. For months the media misreported the number of Americans without health care. When Obama spoke on the issue, the media backed his every move. ABC even turned over its entire network to the president for a healthcare special.
The American public didn’t buy it. Scott Brown won as the 41st vote against Obamacare. The media hated that and made sure everyone knew it. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews called a vote for Brown “deliberate, premeditated murder for health care!” While histrionic, at least he was accurate.
The rise of Scott Brown was as difficult as reading tea leaves for the media. They couldn’t understand the tea partiers and couldn’t grasp a man who, gasp, drives a pick-up truck. CNN’s Jessica Yellin depicted the GOP voters as “feeling angry and scared.” The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn said Brown’s status as a “hunk” aided him and then brought up his decades-old Cosmo photo, saying, “the fact that he posed semi-nude for a magazine gave him a huge advantage in public recognition.” It was an excuse-a-thon.
But with that win, the entire Obama/liberal/media agenda of Big Government was threatened. Looking back to 1978, we’ve seen it all before.
Except for the clothes, the 1970s had some obvious similarities with our era. Then the big epic was “Star Wars.” Today it’s another sci-fi classic, “Avatar.” The king of rock ‘’n’ roll Elvis Presley died during Carter’s first year in office. The King of Pop Michael Jackson passed away during Obama’s.
Then, like now, the economy was a huge story. The American public was beginning what would become a nationwide tax revolt. Activist Howard Jarvis pushed through California’s famous Proposition 13 that limited real estate assessments. State after state followed the model.
In 2009 and now 2010, tax revolt has been on the lips of millions of Americans. From California to Maine to Washington, D.C., angry taxpayers made their voices heard in tea parties and health care town halls. Many of those taxpayers voted for Brown or aided his campaign.
Under Carter, inflation and high interest rates went through the roof. Interest rates tripled from 6.25 percent in December 1976 when Carter was elected to 20 percent in April 1980, a few months before Americans fixed their mistake.
Inflation hasn’t been one of Obama’s headaches – so far. But some economists caution that it too could return. St Louis Fed economist Kevin Kliesen wrote a recent article entitled “Inflation may be the next dragon to slay.” And interest rates are low now, but expected to rise.
The end of 1978 brought Carter and the nation more negative news. Cleveland became the first major American city to default on its debts since the Great Depression. In 2010, local defaults are again in the news. This time, it’s not just cities in danger but whole states like California, drowning under a $20 billion budget gap.
The mid-term election looms in November. Democrats and journalists who thought they had backed a new FDR now fear he’s just a rerun of Jimmy Carter. And Republicans are no longer thinking just of 2010. They are eyeing 2012 and hoping for a rerun of their own. They are wondering if any Republican can fill the role of another famous actor – Ronald Reagan.