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Ed Driscoll

There is a Bear in the Woods

September 27th, 2011 - 1:07 am

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Obama fancies himself a leftwing version of President Reagan (but then, Obama has all sorts of “Disquieting Heroic Fantasies,” as Peter Wehner recently noted at Commentary). But whereas Reagan could see the bear in the woods, as one of his subtlest campaign ads from 1984 highlighted, Obama never saw the bear before it was too late, Jonah Goldberg writes today in the L.A. Times: 

“You woke the bears! Why did you do that?”

That’s from one of my favorite scenes in “Anchorman.” In the Oscar-robbed film, Ron Burgundy (played by Will Ferrell) loudly leaps into a bear pit to rescue his girlfriend and then falsely blames her for waking them up.

Watching President Obama these days reminds me of that scene.

In March 2010, liberal columnist Peter Beinart argued that, for decades, Democratic politicians treated America’s innate conservatism like a slumbering bear: If you make no sudden moves and talk quietly, you can get a lot done. But if you wake the bear, as Democrats did in the late 1960s and early ’70s, the ursine silent majority will punish you.

But Obama promised to change that. He was tired of the timid, almost apologetic talk. He was going to be an FDR, or at least a Reagan for liberalism. He was going to “fundamentally transform” the country. And to those who counseled that Democrats can’t govern that way, Obama and his followers responded with shouts of “Yes, we can!”

You might think it was those shouts that woke the bear, but that’s not what happened. After all, Obama enjoyed stunning popularity when he entered the Oval Office.

No, it wasn’t words but deeds that roused the beast. The poorly crafted, deeply partisan stimulus was like a sharp stick to the bear’s belly. But it was “Obamacare” that ended the hibernation.

Despite his deployment of every rhetorical weapon in the progressive arsenal, Obama could never make the thing popular. At town hall meetings, the bear growled and snorted, in a posture that the experienced psephological woodsman understands means “leave the bear alone.” The Democratic response was to mock the grizzly. Nancy Pelosi even called the town hall protesters “un-American.”

By July 2009, Gallup found Americans had attitudes that were “conspicuously incongruous with the results of the 2008 elections.” The 2010 midterm elections showed just how incongruous.

And as Moe Lane wrote yesterday, responding to veteran pollster Stu Rothenberg finally waking up to reality, “Why is Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 only now in doubt?”

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