Candidate Barack Obama ran a brilliant campaign, convincing moderates and even some conservatives that he was no radical while keeping the netroot base fully engaged. But seven months after taking office, the list of disappointed voters (at least those willing to admit they were had) is growing.
Fiscal conservatives who bought the spiel that he’d go line by line through the budget have seen the most fiscally irresponsible president ever. After a $787B pork-filled stimulus, a supplemental spending measure with 9,000 earmarks, a $3.5 trillion budget, and a trillion dollar health care plan, Obama has managed to exceed the worst predictions of his critics. And now at least some of his advisors are letting on that his promise not to hike taxes on 95% of taxpayers is going to be cast aside. After all, the deficit is now so huge we must plug the gap, right? (Robert Gibbs said Obama would never raise taxes on the middle class — well, except for those cigarette and energy taxes.)
Then there are the good government types who fancied a new era of transparency and lobbyist-free government. Well, not quite. We have had the long list of tax cheats and the lobbyists who needed ethics waivers to squeeze through the revolving door. Again and again — whether on the stimulus plan or on cap and trade — gargantuan legislation has been rushed through without public scrutiny. Well, if the public figured out what was on some of those thousands of pages, they might have objected.
There were gay voters who felt certain this contemporary president understood their concerns. Unlike all the other liberal pols he would finally deliver on gay marriage, they hoped ( after all he came out against Proposition 8 in California) and repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Well, as James Kirchick explains, “Whatever he ‘really’ thinks, Obama’s stance on gay marriage is virtually indistinguishable from that of John McCain.” And re-examination of “don’t ask, don’t tell” remains far down on the priority list. (As Reason magazine’s Shikha Dalmia put it, “President Obama is pleading for time to push this issue until after, presumably, he has averted global warming, revived the economy, and implemented universal health coverage.”)
That’s nothing compared to the betrayal of American Jews and other pro-Israel voters. During the campaign he came on bended knee to AIPAC, made little if any mention of Israeli settlements, and sneered at those who might question his Zionist bona fides. After receiving the money and votes of gullible Jewish voters, as president he has now declared his intention to put “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel and has embarked on an openly hostile approach to the Jewish state. And if that wasn’t enough, he chooses to honor, with America’s highest civilian award, Mary Robinson, who presided over the anti-Israel hate-fest at Durban in 2001 when serving as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Then there are the poor benighted pro-life voters who listened to the likes of Doug Kmiec and believed Obama would be someone more pro-life than his prior political record had demonstrated. But sure enough, he repealed the restriction on funding international groups which provide abortion services, nominated a Supreme Court judge who his advisors assured pro-choice groups would be solidly in their corner, and has done nothing to alter the Democrats’ aversion to any restrictions on abortion. (Indeed, Democrats will almost surely insist that abortion services be provided under Obama’s universal health care proposal.)
Perhaps the pro-life voters should have compared notes with the libertarians who were convinced that Obama was somehow going to limit the reach of government. But instead, the nanny state reigns supreme, stronger than ever. Obama is regulating tobacco, cheering on a massive energy tax and regulatory scheme, and planning a massive new consumer protection agency. Not very free market friendly, is he?
When you tally the list it’s an impressive record. He’s managed to offend or disappoint a diverse array of voters — everyone from Jews, to libertarians, to green eyeshade conservatives. Then you add in seniors who are more wary of his health care plan than younger voters and pro-defense voters who were lulled into his promise to expand the military (and now find that the Department of Defense is on a strict diet while the rest of the federal government is gorging).
So it’s not hard to see why the winning coalition of voters who put Obama in the White House is slowly crumbling. Essentially, anyone who expected something other than an ultra-liberal intent on vastly expanding the power of the federal government and retreating from America’s position of leadership in the world was taken for a ride.
Whether Obama can recapture the support of these voters and get them to turn out to the same degree that they did in 2008 remains to be seen. But you can’t win elections with only the left sliver of the electorate. And it’s going to be hard to fool all the rest of the voters a second time.