Are The Rules Changing?


Jonah Goldberg has put into words what I have been thinking and feeling since the financial meltdown of 2008.  We have turned a page and entered a new era in American history.  He wonders if, as a result, the political rules have changed.

But what about when the rules change? For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters — and scares over alleged ones — help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it. According to the rules, populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less. According to the rules, Americans don’t care about the deficit during a recession.

And yet none of these rules seem to be applying; at least not too strongly. Big government seems more unpopular today than ever. The Gulf oil spill should be a Gaiasend for environmentalists, and yet three quarters of the American people oppose Obama’s drilling ban. Sixty percent of likely voters want their newly minted right to health care repealed. Unlike Europe, where protestors take to the streets to save their cushy perks and protect a large welfare state, the Tea Party protestors have been taking to the streets to trim back government.

Go here to read the rest at Townhall.  When Obama won election there was much talk among his giddy acolytes in the media that he was the second FDR and that Obama would usher in a Second New Deal.  The cover of Time magazine that graces the top of this post is a prime example of the millennial fever that gripped the Left in this country at the beginning of the Obama administration.  Now it has all turned to dust and ashes for a large section of the Left.  In exchange for years of effort on their part they have an administration that has roused an angry electorate against it.  This bemuses the Left since many of them view the Obama administration as a failure because it has been too moderate (Yeah, I do find that hilarious), as noted by Eric Alterman in The Nation:

Few progressives would take issue with the argument that, significant accomplishments notwithstanding, the Obama presidency has been a big disappointment. As Mario Cuomo famously observed, candidates campaign in poetry but govern in prose. Still, Obama supporters have been asked to swallow some painfully “prosaic” compromises. In order to pass his healthcare legislation, for instance, Obama was required to specifically repudiate his pledge to prochoice voters to “make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as president.” That promise apparently was lost in the same drawer as his insistence that “Any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange…including a public option.” Labor unions were among his most fervent and dedicated foot soldiers, as well as the key to any likely progressive political renaissance, and many were no doubt inspired by his pledge “to fight for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.” Yet that act appears deader than Jimmy Hoffa. Environmentalists were no doubt steeled through the frigid days of New Hampshire canvassing by Obama’s promise that “As president, I will set a hard cap on all carbon emissions at a level that scientists say is necessary to curb global warming—an 80 percent reduction by 2050.” That goal appears to have gone up the chimney in thick black smoke. And remember when Obama promised, right before the election, to “put in place the common-sense regulations and rules of the road I’ve been calling for since March—rules that will keep our market free, fair and honest; rules that will restore accountability and responsibility in our corporate boardrooms”? Neither, apparently, does he… Indeed, if one examines the gamut of legislation passed and executive orders issued that relate to the promises made by candidate Obama, one can only wince at the slightly hyperbolic joke made by late night comedian Jimmy Fallon, who quipped that the president’s goal appeared to be to “finally deliver on the campaign promises made by John McCain.”

What has actually happened is really very simple to understand.  Obama did try the nostrums of the New Deal in 2009.  He passed the huge stimulus.  He has increased government regulation.  It hasn’t worked.  The Great Recession continues.  Unlike Roosevelt, Obama lacks the salesmanship to convince the American people that a manifestly bad economy is on the mend.  More to the point,  this increase in government spending is occurring when most Americans have become convinced that rampant overspending on government is the problem and not the solution.  So we have a move to bigger government which manifestly has failed to deliver what it promised:  a return to prosperity. 


When FDR brought forth the New Deal it was something new in American history.  Obama’s embrace of bigger government is merely more of the same since the New Deal.  Instead of new solutions to a bad situation, Obama has offered tired ideas that have had no positive impact.


 I believe that this Great Recession will prove as transformative in American politics as the Great Depression.  Obama and his supporters thought that he was FDR2.  Instead, in one of those frequent historical ironies that convinces me that God has an infinite sense of humor, Obama will quite likely be remembered as Hoover2, a man who inherited a bad economy, who was at his wits end as to what to do about it, and who was the last gasp of a dying political era.  Rather than breathing new life into the New Deal, the Obama administration is singing its funeral dirge.

4 Responses to Are The Rules Changing?

  1. Bill Sr. says:

    Is it possible, thanks be to God, Obama and the Marxists who have guided his rise to power and supported his progressive agenda were so overwhelmed with the thrill of victory in 2008 and the desire to implement all of their “crisis” driven agenda upon America as quickly as they could that in their arrogant haste the cycle of propose, pass, sign, and implementation of their ill willed socialist hope and change fast forwarded public awareness of what was happening to our country before our very eyes and awakened our senses to where we (i.e. the Tea Party) have demanded a halt to their victory charade?

  2. Art Deco says:

    Obama did try the nostrums of the New Deal in 2009. He passed the huge stimulus. He has increased government regulation. It hasn’t worked. The Great Recession continues. Unlike Roosevelt, Obama lacks the salesmanship to convince the American people that a manifestly bad economy is on the mend.

    Just wish to point out that domestic product had, by early 1937, come close to returning to 1929 levels and that per capita income was perhaps 5% below its peak. Both metrics exceeded 1929 levels by 1941. The economy was mending in this most salient respect, and mending rapidly. However, the labor market remained severely dysfunctional, with about 15% of the workforce either unemployed or stashed in low productivity jobs in the Works Progress Administration and other agencies.

    The problem with B.O. is that he is quite unlike Mr. Roosevelt. FDR had 11 years under his belt as a public executive at the time he was sworn in and (through recommended legislation and executive order) engineered effective and immediate first aid and surgery to the financial system. Obama turned the task over to Bwaney Fwank and Friend-of-Angelo Chris Dodd, who produced a 2,400 page bill (which has in it God-knows-how-many bon bons for people on the patronage of these two characters). The original session law erecting the Social Security system was 28 pages long.

  3. restrainedradical says:

    I wouldn’t blame Obama, at least not primarily. The electorate has changed. FDR won in 1932 by 18 points and 413 electoral votes which is still the largest margin ever against an incumbent. Obama won by 7 points and 192 electoral votes. Congress was to the left of FDR and passed spending bills that FDR vetoed. As you mentioned, austerity is much more popular these days.

    I was recently wondering whether it’s possible to take advantage of this anti-big-government public opinion while still applying Keynesian policies. I think it’s possible, but probably not now. During good economic times, it would be possible to enact automatic stabilizers which may not do much at the time but which would really kick in during recessions. Things like expanded unemployment insurance (preferably individual savings accounts backstopped by subsidies). They’d have to be designed as individual accounts or entitlements so they don’t get axed in recessions. During bad times, let austerity run rampant. Government would slow its growth or even shrink while the automatic stabilizers keep spending up temporarily.

  4. Pinky says:

    I don’t know that the rules are changing. We just found a new group of really cool friends with a lot of the same interests, and there are a bunch of cute boys, and we’re hoping that one of them will be Mr. Right. When we actually get into a relationship, though, we’ll find out that he has other friends, and he doesn’t want to be changed, and there are a lot of things we don’t have in common. It’s too early to tell if we’ll find love.

    (Apologies for the prolonged analogy.)

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