President-elect Obama’s claims of bipartisanship rang deeply through the campaign. Presenting himself as a unifier, his message was supposed to soften the hearts of even the most raucous partisan hacks. Since the election, he has caused chagrin amongst the Hill’s most stalwart Progressives and confounded the beleaguered GOP. All the while, taking his case about big government to the American people. Seemingly bypassing Congress and Washington insiders all together. Much the same strategy which Ronald Reagan was famous for.
A comparison of President-elect Obama to legendary Republican hero, Ronald Reagan, might seem blasphemous within the halls of conservatism. However, their congruency of taking issues to the public and the situations which they both entered their Presidencies under are where the comparisons end.
Obama, much like Reagan did, is walking into a landscape where there is economic turmoil, as faced in the late 70’s and early 80’s, massive distrust in the government fostered by scandal after scandal, a previously inept administration, and an unpopular war.
The differences are that Reagan sought to capitalize on the mistrust in the government to shrink it. Obama, on the other hand, is trying to reassert its effectiveness to the American people and expand it.
Take for instance the President-elect’s prepping for his massive trillion dollar stimulus package. He has made the unprecedented move of campaigning for his recovery plan, not on the Hill, but with the people. This is all being done with focus groups, linguistical changes primarily directed at what makes the electorate more comfortable, and using vast online media resources at his disposal. Taking advantage of the fact that the people, as a majority, trust him and not the Congress. Obama is attempting to become the face of “big government.” Saying, “If you trust me, then you trust the government.”
From the Christian Science Monitor,
In many ways, Mr. Obama’s push is unprecedented. He hasn’t yet made a single phone call from the Oval Office. But he’s hard at work trying to build voters’ trust, not just in his administration but in the capabilities of government itself.
“The American people are deeply ambivalent at this moment,” says William Galston, a senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“On the one hand, they broadly support the new administration and want it to succeed. On the other hand, there is deep skepticism about the ability of government to do the right thing and to do it effectively.”
At this point, Team Obama’s motivations are getting easier to decipher. His distancing himself away from Congress can be seen through one of two lenses. Either he is displaying a political naivety or absolute genius. The latter seems to be the more plausible, based on his almost flawless campaign which they ran.
He has already made major concessions in his recovery plan, since its inception, which includes fairly hefty tax cuts. A very distinct message to the GOP and the American people that he is willing to move away from Pelosi, Reid, and their brood. Already, major opposition is already starting to develop against his plan, and more than likely, this will lead to the Democratic controlled Congress dismantling it.
From Rasmussen Reports,
Meanwhile, polls now say the public favors Obama’s plan by 55 percent to 65 percent. His personal approval rating is even higher. And he’s being politically astute by reaching out to Republicans. He has virtually removed partisan rhetoric. Simply put, Obama is in the driver’s seat right now.
Sure, the Democratic Congress may mangle Obama’s plan. They might even repeal the Bush tax cuts this year. So there is considerable uncertainty about the details of the final package. But I must say, a crafty Obama is doing his best top employ his version of the Reagan tax-cut plan. Obama talks big government. But so far his program actually reduces the government-spending share and increases the private tax-cut share.
The odds are, as pointed out, that the stimulus tax cuts will not survive and Bush’s tax plan will be repealed. This puts Obama in an interesting position. By presenting a plan that the American people want and then having the Hill tear it apart, he is protected politically speaking. He still gets his over-the-top, big government, spending spree and Congress gets the blame. Obama knows that Congress will then bear the brunt of American anger, when it comes time to pay, and they will remove his Progressive pals (Reid, Pelosi, etc.) in 10′.
A Republican controlled Congress and a hyper-Liberal President would be a repeat of the Clinton years. One in which Clinton rode the wave of the successes of the GOP and even today gets credit for the fairly decent economy the Republicans ushered in. It seems he is trying to repeat that same scenario.
Some conservative pundits, seem unable or unwilling to give him credit for such a plan. This attitude and lack of understanding could be a grievous error on their part.
Not consulting with Feinstein, Bond (and their House counterparts) is a rookie mistake Obama can’t afford to repeat. But the economic stimulus bill appears to be suffering the same sort of mishandling.
Obama — by not spending the last two months cultivating Congress — has put himself at a great disadvantage in shaping the legislative agenda. Unless his leadership skills prove much better than we’ve seen, it may be Congress leading the White House rather than the other way around.
If the Republicans are going to start gaining advantages on Obama, they need to start understanding his psychology and using it against him. Concentrating on painting him as “stupid” or “inexperienced” will cost them heavily when the time comes. This tactic did not work against Reagan, nor did it work against Bush. Conservatives are supposed to own the moniker of “learning from history.” A short exploration into the past can show that Obama is nothing new and can provide strategies for using him to their advantages for the sake of America.