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Works and Days

Prairie-Fire Anger

August 5th, 2009 - 8:15 am

Why Are People in Revolt?

The approval ratings on nearly every one of the President’s key policy initiatives—cap-and-trade, health care overhaul, government take over of industry and finance, deficit spending, stimulus—are already less than half of polled voters. Obama’s own popularity has fallen dramatically and hovers near fifty percent. A number of well-publicized town meetings have erupted in shouting, as administration and congressional representatives try, often in condescending fashion, to explain the Obama agenda. The Republicans—written off just a few weeks ago as an obsolete party headed for oblivion—are now often polling higher in generic surveys than are Democrats.

Why the sudden uproar?

Bait-and-Switch

There is a growing sense of a “we’ve been had”, bait-and-switch. Millions of moderate Republicans, independents, and conservative Democrats—apparently angry at Bush for Iraq and big deficits, unimpressed by the McCain campaign, intrigued by the revolutionary idea of electing an African-American president—voted for Obama on the assumption that he was sincere about ending red state/blue state animosity. They took him at his word that he was going to end out of control federal spending. They trusted that he had real plans to get us out of the economic doldrums, and that he was not a radical tax-and-spend liberal of the old sort.

Instead, within days Obama set out plans that would triple the annual deficit, and intends to borrow at a record pace that will double the aggregate debt in just eight years.

He not only took over much of the auto- and financial industries, but also did so in a way that privileged unions, politically-correct creditors, and those insider cronies who favor administration initiatives. On matters racial, his administration is shrill and retrograde, not forward-looking. It insists on emphasizing the tired old identify politics that favor a particular sort of racial elite that claims advantage by citing past collective victimization or piggy-backs for advantage on the plight of the minority underclass.

 In other words, the Obama swing voter thought he was getting a 21st-century version of pragmatic, triangulating Bill Clinton—and instead got something to the left of 1970s Jimmy Carter.

 

Those Who Receive and Those Who Dole Out

There is, of course, a growing fear of government—but a new sort of anxiety that transcends the traditional skepticism of statism. Few Americans younger than 60 can recall the magnitude of the current government take-over of the economy that may reach 40-45% of GDP. Evocation of “socialism” is still considered inflammatory by the Left, but it is now simply an empirical term, not a slur, given that America’s tax codes and entitlement spending may look like the  social landscape in France or Scandinavia in short order.

Apprehensive voters dread turning their hard-won and paid-for private health care plans into something like the emergency room on Saturday night, where the care reflects the chaos. The new anti-Obamians do not want industry run like the Department of Motor Vehicles, where most time and money are invested mostly in those  who do not follow the rules like registering their cars or getting a driver’s license. And it is not just the waste, inefficiency, and lack of accountability inherent in government-run enterprises that bother the growing cadre of angry voters.

There is, again, a mounting anxiety that the current federal expansion is politically-driven in rather radical ways—an effort to create a permanent new constituency of millions who either receive expanded federal largess or are gleefully employed in doling it out. The zealotry of expansive bureaucracy and dependency instills fears, rational or not, of a radicalized huge federal work force, a sort of national version of Acorn to the nth degree that in pack-like fashion is mobilized to target potential naysayers.

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