Obama’s Second Term: Triangulation’s Revenge?

 

Beware, writes David Brooks:

What would happen if Obama sidestepped the fruitless and short-term stimulus debate and instead focused on the long term? He could explain that we’re facing deep fundamental problems: an aging population, overleveraged consumers, exploding government debt, state and local bankruptcies, declining human capital, widening inequality, a pattern of jobless recoveries, deteriorating trade imbalances and so on.

These long-term problems, Obama could say, won’t be solved either with centralized government or free market laissez-faire […] the president could lay the groundwork for a whopping second-term agenda: tax simplification, entitlement reform, a new wave of regional innovation clusters, a new wave of marriage-friendly tax policies. […] A chill sweeps over me: Gosh, what if the Democrats really did change in that way?

Conventional wisdom on the right is in danger of hardening into a kind of grim glee, certain that Obama will triple- and quadruple-down on policies so unpopular and deeply leftist that he’ll be run out on a flaming rail come 2012. Forgotten are the abysmal lows of Bill Clinton, who had to take to the bully pulpit to insist that the Presidency was “still relevant,” only to bounce to glorious heights on the backs of — yep — a Republican resurgence; stashed in the background is the pressure Obama faces from the not-dead-yet Clintonista wing of the Democratic party — more ‘centrist’ in some respects, largely as a consequence of being politically more savvy (whatever, indeed, that’s worth).

Krauthammer, as Rob has observed, fears that Obama’s second term might achieve a total transformation of American life. Brooks reminds Obama’s critics that there are other, less nightmarish, things to worry about — many more years of popular Democratic government, cheerily nudging a more or less happy America ever further away from a world in which powerful Republican majorities will rematerialize any time soon. Triangulation with a vengeance.

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  1. Profile Photo Editor
    @RobLong

    Brooks has lost his mind. Sure, yes, if President Obama suddenly woke up and became the politician that people like Brooks thought they were voting for — all of those splendidly centrist, thoughtful programs — maybe his second term would be interesting. But that’s really unlikely. Bill Clinton is a perfect example — for the counter-argument. Clinton had already governed a southern state as a centrist; he led the most conservative wing of the Democratic party. Can anyone find anything — anything, any scrap or fragment or shard — in Obama’s past or present that suggests he’s got that kind of flexibility?

    People like David Brooks voted for a fantasy. What they got was a reality. And now what do they do, instead of seeing things for what they really are?

    They spin more fantasies.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MelFoil

    I don’t think Obama can abandon his socialist agenda any more than Dracula can sunbathe on the beach. Even if it would help him win a second term, I don’t think he could bring himself to do it.

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    @Pachyderm

    Obama is a hard-line radical. His policies are grounded in bedrock beliefs that he will not change, or change only marginally under intense pressure. Over the next two years Obama will continue to socialize as much of the economy as possible while blaming the new Republican majority in Congress for the resulting economic catastrophe.

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  4. Profile Photo Member
    @

    What I can see deep in the bowels of the administration if the far tougher, harder-line ideological intransigence that makes Brooks’ scenario impossible to believe. Besides, its those of us that were duped the first time around that are likely to be the most mistrustful of any attempt to do it again. The real anger is not on the far right which predicted this outcome, but in the center where we feel misled.

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    @DuaneOyen

    Hey, if he actually told the truth for once and adopted a, shall we say, Clintonian approach (or better), I’d seriously consider not jumping off of a Grand Canyon cliff sans glider, my tentative plan if he is re-elected. (don’t get all gleeful, fans- I’m as consistent as Alec Baldwin)

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    @GADean

    Seems even more likely that Obama, after a spanking in November, will fall back on his strength… which is inaction. He’ll go into an extended campaign with content-less speeches and occasional swipes at his opponents. He’ll wait for the Republicans to make an unforced error, which they typically do.

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  7. Profile Photo Contributor
    @JamesPoulos
    G.A. Dean: Seems even more likely that Obama, after a spanking in November, will fall back on his strength… which is inaction. He’ll go into an extended campaign with content-less speeches and occasional swipes at his opponents. He’ll wait for the Republicans to make an unforced error, which they typically do. · Jul 30 at 11:14am

    So the natural question, G.A., is which unforced error Republicans should be most wary of committing.

    • #7

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