President Barack Obama’s news conference last Wednesday was curious, with him shifting from a partial understanding of what he finally acknowledged was a “shellacking” of his party to extended answers couched in theory and speculation that sounded for all the world as if the midterm elections had not happened.
When you get hit by a two-by-four you’ll notice it, but you might not have an immediate full understanding of who wielded it or why.
This is hardly surprising. Political leaders who suffer rebuffs, especially from a voting public that seemed to embrace them with enthusiasm two years ago, are bound to engage in a certain amount of denial. My policies and initiatives were unquestionably wise and necessary. We just didn’t get the message out effectively, or the public was paralyzed by fear and unable to comprehend the full measure of our beneficence — or something. It couldn’t possibly have been an overt rejection of me and my policies — could it?
Well, like it or not, that seems to have been exactly what it was. Most people probably still like President Obama personally and wish him well, but they are concerned that pressing for expansion of government power and resources in response to each and every perceived problem is not really a measured response to emergencies, but a knee-jerk, one-size-fits-all ideological approach reflecting a perhaps unacknowledged and certainly unstated big-government-good-smaller-government-bad set of assumptions.
And while many Americans might enjoy the illusion that government can give them all kinds of “free” things, most can do enough simple math to realize that constantly increasing spending and government power is unsustainable over the long run, despite what Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi or Barack Obama might assume.
An aura of uncertainty about what comes next is compounded by the fact that most Republicans were content to run as the we’re-not-them party rather than offering specific proposals to cure our economic ills and increase personal liberty. It is significant that economic, rather than social, issues dominated the campaign, but nobody knows what kind of follow-through will ensue.
Certainly, maintaining current tax rates — which some people call extending the Bush tax cuts though after 10 years these aren’t fresh cuts but the status quo — should be at the top of the list, as even President Obama acknowledged in part.
Republicans would do well to begin by proposing to repeal Obamacare as the starting point for negotiation. And a few vulnerable federal agencies should be targeted for steep budget cuts or outright elimination.
That should get the discussion started. We’ll have more specific ideas as the situation unfolds.