Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reality Strikes Back

The Right Word
By Kelly Sloan
Once again we are witness to the political drama generated when liberalism is confronted in an explicit way with reality; the punditocracy now waits eagerly to see how liberalisms current standard-bearer, President Barack Obama, will respond.

November 2nd was an electoral repudiation of Obama’s transformational Keynesian/collectivist agenda, and a signal that the nation desired a return to the norm – a political correction whose catalyst was an idealistic rush to transform America into a notional utopia, over the objections of reality as represented by the people who occupy reality on a daily basis.

Obama can respond in one of two ways; the first is the Nancy Pelosi route, which clings stubbornly (some may say bitterly) to the ideology, refusing to accept that it has failed, and that the voters recognize this failure. Much like the Soviets, who obstinately blamed a fictitious 70 year drought for the failures of collectivized agriculture (because obviously there was nothing wrong with the economic model, as anyone who suggested otherwise had explained to them by being shot), the Pelosic approach seems willing to reach for and accept any half-baked explanation for the trouncing suffered by the Democrats, except for the actual one. We saw the President exhibit hints of this approach in his press conference/eulogy which he gave after the appropriate grieving period following the election.

The second approach is the one President Bill Clinton so expertly embraced – one of triangulating; moving, however ostensibly, to the center. This is problematic for the young ideologue occupying the White house, on several levels.

For one thing, Obama truly believes in his vision, that American society can be molded into an egalitarian Shangri-la, and that he is the artist most qualified to do the molding.

Second, he will face increasing pressure from his left to stay on the shining path to collectivist nirvana. Since these are the folks who were instrumental in propelling him to the presidency, he will naturally feel a debt and allegiance to them.

Finally, Obama lacks the political dexterity and finesse to pull it off to the extent that Clinton did. Whatever his other faults (and they are too numerous to list here), Clinton was above all things the consummate political survivalist, willing to adjust, adapt or compromise as necessary to retain power and influence. Obama, due partly to lack of experience, partly to the vagaries of geography and background, and partly to ideological allegiance, is denied this same ability. At the same time, he will find it increasingly difficult to ignore politically what happened on November 2, and so is faced with an unenviable dilemma.

His dilemma started well before the election, mind you. Economic reality could not sustain for long the Keynesian fantasies championed by Obama’s administration and complicit congress. Persistent unemployment, unaffected by the hundreds of billions of dollars thrown at it, coupled with the myriad of interventionist programs which are virtually guaranteed to further retard economic growth and stifle job creation, and the enormous deficits and looming debt generated by these absurd fiscal policies, all conspire to belie the notion that government manipulation of the market, economic leveling, and massive spending are the way to improve an economy.

Rather than accepting reality and initiating pro-growth policies, Obama has taken a largely see-no-evil approach; however, the recent GOP victories could ironically serve as Obama’s economic saving grace – as investors and business owners begin to recognize that Obama’s agenda is in fact stopped in its tracks, they will start to feel more confident in circulating money again, and the economy will slowly begin its regrowth. Obama could benefit from an eventual economic rebound if he has the good sense to simply do nothing at all.

The conflict between liberalism and reality is even more pronounced in the foreign policy arena. In stark contrast with his idealistic speeches during the campaign and the first year of his presidency, much of Obama’s foreign policy has been forced to conform to the realities of the world, hence the surge in Afghanistan, the lack of any further discussion about closing Guantanamo or trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed in civilian court, and the continuation of President Bush’s policy of opening to India. But even here, Obama cannot seem to help backsliding frequently to his ideologue roots, evidenced by his lack of effective policy on Iran, blind over-reliance on the UN, and his sticking to an expiration date on the War on Terror.

Obama’s grand transformational experiment has come to a screeching halt. The test of his presidency now will be how he responds to his harshest critic, the world as it is.

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