Townhall Magazine: How Obama Lost America

Posted: Aug 31, 2010 9:34 AM
From the September 2010 cover story of Townhall Magazine. Order your subscription today to ensure you get this powerful issue.


The president's agenda, arrogance and attitude have dulled that shiny, gold-plated image so many Americans bought. Now, his hubris and damn-the-voters posture are leading his party to a 2010 disaster.

President George W. Bush was a buoy for Republicans in 2002, the first midterm election of his presidency. Obama, on the other hand, is like an anvil. How did things go so wrong?

His predicament is partly the result of bad luck. Obama did not create the bad economy, even if it helped him get elected. He did not cause the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, even if a majority of Americans now frown upon his response to it. Both circumstances are now exacerbating his current problems, but neither can explain the relatively sudden crackup that polls suggest happened between late 2009 and early 2010.

The simplest explanation for Obama’s demise is ObamaCare, but it’s still not enough just to point to the law itself. Think of the health care debate as the small chip in your windshield, which, though small, compromises its integrity. When your car hits the next big bump, the chip becomes a crack, which then grows and spreads with every little jolt. In similar fashion, Obama’s ruthless push for health care reform—and his failure to heed the public’s negative reaction—created the first cracks in Obama’s administration. They have since widened and multiplied with each new disaster, gaffe and piece of bad economic news.

Obama laid the groundwork for failure much earlier, during his 2008 election campaign. As a candidate, he promised Hope, Change and as few specifics as reasonably possible. This was the political path of least resistance, and President George W. Bush’s unpopularity virtually guaranteed its success. The mainstream media, enrapt by the candidate’s tingle-inspiring rhetoric and transformative post-partisanship, did as little as possible to reveal Obama’s true policy intentions and left-leaning ideological origins.

This played to Obama’s strong suit. David Mendell of the Chicago Tribune wrote in his 2007 biography, “Obama: From Promise to Power,” of the senator’s “ingenious lack of specificity. … While talking or writing about a deeply controversial subject, he considers all points of view before cautiously giving his own often risk-averse assessment, an opinion that often appears so universal that people of various viewpoints would consider it their own.”

This formula, along with incredible good luck, had been key to Obama’s effortless political rise as a legislator. But when it brought him to executive power, the effect was slightly different. Because he never had to sell his least popular policy reforms, Obama won office without the broad mandate he needed to govern as he wanted. This is the best available explanation for why Americans reacted so negatively to his agenda as soon as it materialized in Congress. They suddenly felt surprised, even deceived, after all the talk of post-partisanship.

Read the rest of this report in the September issue of Townhall Magazine.