President Obama’s approval ratings are plummeting, and Democrats’ prospects for the House and Senate look bleak. And yet in presidential polls, Hillary Clinton still beats all Republican candidates by far. So a substantial demographic does not like President Obama but does like Hillary Clinton. These are mostly blue collar workers and white Southerners, including many who do not describe themselves as liberal and quite a few evangelicals. In other words, the old Democratic constituency that had been taken away by Ronald Reagan. See a sample of E. J. Dionne’s discussion of this phenomenon after the jump. [Read more…]
President Clinton was hailed by the liberal media as “the first black president”–on the basis of his soulfulness, sexual appetites, and other racist stereotypes–even though there would be an actual black president a few years later. Now Newsweek is hailing President Obama as “the first gay president” with a cover story by Andrew Sullivan about alleged affinities between being biracial and being gay. (Never mind that gays had been disillusioned with the president for not doing anything for them until his recent announcement that he support gay marriage.)
I think this is ridiculous journalism and unfair to President Obama. What gets me, though, is the cover. In an extreme version of media hagiography, both of Obama and of gays, the president is adorned with a halo. A rainbow-colored halo.
We have recently discussed homosexuality and gay marriage, to the point of exhaustion, so let’s not talk about those subjects as such. Let’s talk about the halo.
In what has to be one of the most dramatic turnarounds in moral and cultural history, gays have acquired the status of sainthood, while those who oppose homosexuality have acquired the status of evil villain. Homosexuality used to be considered a mental illness; now homophobia is considered the mental illness. Gay sex used to be considered a vice; now it is assuming the status of a virtue, while disapproving of gay sex is considered a vice. Conservative Christians have liked to think of themselves as “good” (despite their own theology); but now they (or we) are demonized. Gays, though, wear a halo. Not that everyone believes this, but this is the projection of both the elite and the popular cultures, whose influence is permeating everywhere.
How do you account for this turn-around? How did it happen? Why? Are there lessons that Christians can learn from this before the persecutions begin in earnest? And, to play the Newsweek game, might Christians someday become the “new gays”?
As of this moment, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are at an impasse over the 2011 budget. Budget hawks in the Republican party have insisted on cutting President Obama’s spending plan. Democrats have agreed to some $30 billion in cuts, but that is not enough for a key segment of Republicans. If a budget doesn’t pass, the government shuts down on Friday. (Well, “essential services” won’t, but still. . . .)
You may recall another time when Republicans scored a big Congressional victory over an unpopular Democratic president. They demanded that the budget be cut and stood firm and uncompromising on that principle. The government shut down. Whereupon the public reacted against the Republicans, President Clinton’s popularity shot up, and he won re-election.
Is this a repeat of history? Are the Republicans over-reaching, again? Will this mean the re-election of Barack Obama? Is there anything different this time?
And here is a deeper question: Will the American public tolerate a tough, trimmed down budget? With so many Americans beholden in some way on federal money–getting social security, medicare, farm subsidies, business subsidies, government contracts, job-creating pork, federal programs, college loans, etc., etc.–even though they express worry about the deficit in the abstract, will they turn against any Republican or conservative who threatens to defund popular programs?
President Obama has agreed with Congressional Republicans to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts in exchange for extending unemployment benefits. The package includes some other interesting details:
President Obama and congressional Republicans have reached a tentative accord on a far-reaching economic package that would preserve George W. Bush administration tax breaks for families at all income levels for two years, extend emergency jobless benefits through 2011 and cut payroll taxes by 2 percent for every American worker through the end of next year.
The scope of the agreement, announced by the White House late Monday, was far broader than lawmakers in either party had been expecting. The deal would extend a college tuition tax credit and other breaks for middle-class families that were due to expire New Year’s Eve. And it would revive the inheritance tax after a year-long lapse, imposing a 35 percent rate on estates worth more than $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.
The package would add more than $700 billion to the rising national debt, said congressional sources who were briefed on the deal. But with the unemployment rate at 9.8 percent, the White House was focused on winning a compromise that could boost the fragile recovery while preventing the economic damage that could result from letting the expiring tax breaks affect paychecks next month.
The payroll tax holiday, in particular, is striking for its universal application. Unlike most tax breaks, it would be available to taxpayers at every income level, letting consumers keep an extra $120 billion in their pockets next year. For a couple making $70,000 a year, the holiday would provide a tax savings of $1,400.
This description of the payroll tax, which goes for Social Security, is unclear. It doesn’t cut them by a measly 2%, which would hardly mean anything. Rather, it cuts the tax rate from 6% of the paycheck to 4%, so that all workers will get to keep a third of what they used to pay. That’s a pretty significant raise.
Now all the President has to do is persuade the Democrats, many of whom are reportedly livid at the deal, which keeps the tax cuts even for those who make $250,000 and up.
The crushing rebuke of the Democrats in the recent election by no means finishes Barack Obama. He can easily win a second term by emulating the last Democratic President who likewise lost a midterm election but came back to win a second term. Bill Clinton simply played along with the Republicans to the point of co-opting their positions. Welfare reform was a Republican issue, but Clinton made it his own. He also won the public’s sympathy.
President Obama could take upon himself the reduction of the deficit. (Yes, he caused a big part of it, but that doesn’t have to matter politically.) He could drastically cut corporate welfare, farm subsidies and the military, thus pleasing his left flank. The Republicans would co-operate with his other cuts, such as eliminating whole departments and highly-visible programs. He could reform social security, perhaps by not letting rich people get it. He could increase his popularity by just leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, while keeping up the drone assassinations.
I’m not saying he SHOULD do any of this. I’m just describing what might be successful tactics. What else could he do?
Pro-Obama pundit Dana Milbank notes a curious fact about the President’s campaign speeches:
As he barnstorms the country in these closing days before the midterms, he has borrowed Bill Clinton’s 1994 stump speech — in some cases, word for word.
“It’s up to you to remember that this election is a choice,” Obama said in a recent speech. “It’s a choice between the past and the future; a choice between hope and fear; a choice between falling backwards and moving forwards. And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward. I don’t want to go backward.”
Compare that to this common Clinton passage from ’94: “Ladies and gentlemen, this election, all over America, represents a choice, a choice between hope and fear . . . between whether we’re going forward or we’re going to go back. I think I know the answer to that. You want to keep going forward.”
Obama has even extended Clinton’s automotive metaphor of ’94. Clinton’s model: “You know, if you drive your car and there’s a lot of stuff on the windshield, you could think it’s dark outside when the sun shining. . . . That’s what they’ve done. They’ve put a lot of dirt on America’s windshield. We got to clean it off between now and Tuesday. Will you help? Will you do your part? Will you go forward? . . . Think about it like this: Every one of you is in the driver’s seat.”
In Obama’s model, Republicans drove a car into a ditch and were “kicking dirt down into the ditch, kicking dirt in our faces, but we kept on pushing. Finally we got this car up on level ground. And, yes, it’s a little beat up. . . . But it’s pointing in the right direction. And now we’ve got the Republicans tapping us on the shoulder, saying, ‘we want the keys back.’ You can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive. You can ride with us if you want, but you got to sit in the back seat. We’re going to put middle-class America in the front seat. . . . I’m going forwards, with all of you.”
I don’t consider this plagiarism. There are only so many cliches that one can use to describe both presidents’ dilemmas, and I’m sure they are in the public domain.