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For some time now, I have been arguing that we should be of good cheer, that the polls were skewed, and that October would matter. As I pointed out yesterday, in drawing attention to a fabulous post by Jay Cost, October always matters — and last night you saw why.
In running against an incumbent, an insurgent is nearly always at a disadvantage. The former is an old shoe. He may not be much good, but he is familiar and comfortable. The latter — even if, like Ronald Reagan or Mitt Romney, he has been around for a long time — is comparatively unfamiliar. Political junkies know all about him. Ordinary people have only a vague impression. They have better things to do with their lives than to obsess about politicians.
It is in October, ordinarily, that the comparatively apolitical majority wakes up. Those with a sense of civic duty — and they are numerous — watch at least one of the debates. Or, to be more precise, they watch at least part of one of the debates — usually the first one — as I did last night. And the part they watch is the beginning.
What happened last night was predictable. Mitt Romney was well prepared and, without being uncivil, he went on the attack. Occasionally, policy wonk that he is, he got lost in the weeds. But for the most part he laid out broad themes, and it was easy to foresee what he would say. It was easy because Barack Obama is a sitting duck. His is a failed Presidency — and everyone who has been paying attention who is not blinded by partisan passion knows it.
Obama inherited a recession and, without bothering to disguise what he was up to, dedicated himself to exploiting it for the purpose of jamming through a radical program, dear to his party, that never had public support. About the recession, he did nothing, assuming that the economy would bounce back quickly, as it usually does, and that he would get the credit for the recovery. In fact, everything that he did do when he and his party were fully in control — the looting bill thinly disguised as a stimulus bill, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank — retarded the recovery by running up the deficit, loading on new taxes, and making it more expensive to do business. To this the President added the threat of further tax increases — targeted on the investing class: those especially apt, when future developments are exceedingly unclear, to be hesitant to risk their hard-earned capital in funding new ventures or in expanding old ones. The truth is that the programs passed by the Democrats, when they had the initiative, produced stagnation and prolonged and deepened the downturn. All that Mitt Romney had to do last night was to draw attention to the level of unemployment, the level of underemployment, and the size of the deficit.
If Barack Obama seemed halting, uncomfortable, exhausted, and depressed last night, it was because he was saddled with defending the indefensible. What could he say? He had promised shortly after becoming President that his program would bring unemployment way down. He and his allies in Congress had sold Obamacare in part as a jobs bill. And the facts were there to be seen — exceedingly high unemployment and underemployment coupled with persuasive evidence that the growth needed to boost the economy was not in the offing. Instead of coming out of a recession, we were on the cusp of a new recession, and nearly everyone sensed it. For the first time in his life, Barack Obama was cornered. For the first time in his life, he was to be held accountable for his achievements. He was the ultimate affirmative action baby, and he had always been given a free pass. He had always run — for chairman of the Harvard Law Review, for the Illinois state senate, for the United States Senate, and for the Presidency — on promise. Now he was an executive running for re-election, and he was going to be held responsible for what he had done and for what he had failed to do. And, to make matters worse, he had been deprived of his security blanket. He did not have a teleprompter to fall back on.
I have long thought that there would be a landslide in November, and I have not been shy in advertising my expectations. I first became aware that a realignment was possible in the late winter and early Spring of 2009 when the Tea Party emerged. I became more confident that we were witnessing a seismic shift in American politics in August 2009 when older Americans appeared at town meetings to shout down Congressmen and Senators who supported Obamacare. At that time, I predicted that the Democratic Party would be decisively defeated in the November 2010 midterm elections. The only question left thereafter was whether Barack Obama would pull a Bill Clinton and negotiate a bipartisan debt-reduction deal with the Republicans in 2011. When he balked at the prospect, I figured that, if the Republicans found a candidate eager to win and willing to run as a principled admirer of the American constitution and of the free market, the President would lose and lose big.
Of course, it is not yet over. Barack Obama may yet pull a rabbit out of a hat. But I think this unlikely. He has always been in over his head, and now that fact is visible — even to his worshipers in the legacy media. He has no program to run on. He repudiated the recommendations of the debt commission he appointed. He has no record to run on, and he knows it. Last night we watched the President of the United States flail and flounder. In the weeks to come, we will watch his campaign and the “unofficial campaign” mounted by the folks at Pravda-on-the-Hudson, Pravda-on-the-Potomac, CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS do the same. The chickens are coming home to roost, and there is now nothing that they can do about it.
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