Friday, October 17, 2008

Do we want to win?

Obama continues to hold his lead in the polls. It is possible that McCain could still pull ahead but a little voice in the back of my head asks, "Do we really want this?"

It is not that I think that Obama will be a better president. I think that he will be a disaster. This thing is that I suspect that whoever is president will be presiding over a disaster for the next couple of years, at the least. The party in charge will get the blame. If McCain is the president then the Democrats will almost certainly increase their majority in 2010. The best thing that can happen to the Republicans is for the Democrats to be in charge (and vice-versa).

If Obama had been elected a year or two ago then he would have had no trouble implementing his progressive agenda. Times were good (at least better) and people were willing to support progressive programs like raising the minimum wage. Obama will face significant obstacles in 2009 that were not there before. These are:

The Democratic Congress of 2007-2008 failed to deliver on its promises. They did not bring fiscal reform. They did not end corruption. They did not end the war. They sure didn't lower the price of gasoline. About the only thing they accomplished was raising the minimum wage. Until now the Democrats could blame President Bush. With a democrat in the White House, they will have to deliver.

The economy and the bail-out will put severe limits on new programs. The psychological pressure against piling up more national debt will be strong. There will also be pressure for automotive and airline bail-outs. This will cause pressure to balance the budget instead of piling up massive new debt.

If Obama can push his tax plan through it will probably hurt the economy. Bush's stimulus failed because people banked most of it. The same will probably happen to Obama's proposed second stimulus.

The nation was about as primed for national health care in 1992 as it will ever be but the Clintons' plan didn't even come to vote in Congress. Obama will have a lot of work trying to sell his plan.

Democrats have defined themselves as the party of peace for the last several years but Obama now owns Afghanistan. A major part of his campaign was that Iraq was the wrong war and Afghanistan was the right one (echoing John Kerry and Howard Dean). Add in an unstable Pakistan and Obama faces a quagmire. Obama will be expected to make quick progress. He might get lucky and negotiate a treaty with the Taliban that includes an expulsion of al Qeada. Unless this includes bin Laden's head on a pole, it will not be enough.

The peace movement will have a tough choice. Will they support a Democrat who doesn't not meet their standards or will they turn on him? Cindy Sheehan already turned on Pelosi. Will she start camping out in Chicago?

International relations are going to be tough. Obama has already given our opponents the impression that he is a naive push-over. countries that were wary of Bush will push him to see what they can get away with.

Obama ran on an anti-trade platform. If he lives up to this then he will hurt the American economy and our international image. At worst he could start a new era of protectionism that will have world-wide repercussions. On the other hand, if this was all campaign talk then the unions will be upset.

Getting Kyoto passed was always a problem. Pressure will be on Obama for much stronger measures. These might have wide-spread support as long as Obama is talking about new green jobs but the suport will evaporate when people find out that it means $10/gallon for gas.

The Reagan Revolution could only happen because of 4 years of Democratic misrule under Carter. Two years of Democrat control under Clinton was enough to give Republicans control of Congress for 12 years - longer than they have held it since the 1920s. An Obama presidency will force the Republicans to reinvent themselves. The Republicans have not been the party of smaller government since 1989. George W Bush and Karl Rove decided that there were no votes in cutting government so they had no compunctions about expanding government. Post-Reagan Republicans were happy to follow Bush's lead (or to run ahead). They need the contrast of a big-government Democrat to recover their core principals.

On the other hand, if McCain wins then he will either spend his term fighting with Congress and angering everyone or compromising with them and angering the Republican base.

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