Two years after a scintillating boisterous win in November 2008 and in the aftermath of three major reforms — stimulation plan, health care and financial regulation, President Obama and the American democrats seem to be losing steam.
A CBS/Washington Post poll published Tuesday July 13th alarmingly indicates that 6 in 10 Americans “lack faith” in the president. According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 62% of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs even admitted last Sunday that Democrats could lose their House majority. What has happened? Are conservatives suddenly getting their act together? Has Obama distanced himself from the people by making policy mistakes?
I would argue that neither is the case. The United States is a country with a deep conservative strand and a profoundly ingrained mistrust of big government. The health care reform has given conservative commentators a pretext to waken populist and antiquated fears of a socialist -which, only in America, is a bad word- government. It almost felt at times like McCarthyism had been retrieved from history books and cast back into the modern political debate. The recent lawsuit against Arizona’s controversial immigration law [[The Arizona law, set to take effect July 29, directs officers to question people about their immigration status during the enforcement of other laws such as traffic stops and if there’s a reasonable suspicion they’re in the U.S. illegally]] has also infuriated republicans across the nation. In all honesty, the fact that the government is pressing charges because it argues immigration is a federal issue is somewhat surprising in that it corroborates the republican’s complaint that the current administration is overly prone to meddle in state affairs. Why not simply strike down this law for what it is? Discriminatory.
In the meantime, interesting things are happening to the American political psyche. Obama has always boasted his bipartisan approach and natural penchant for conciliation and compromise. The exact opposite, polarization, is what he’s getting in return. A new culture war is brewing in America. According to Arthur C. Brooks, the conservative author of a recent book entitled “The Battle: How the Fight between Free Entreprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future”, “it is not a fight over guns, gays or abortion. Those old battles have been eclipsed by a new struggle between two competing visions of the country’s future. In one, America will continue to be an exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise – limited government, a reliance on entrepreneurship and rewards determined by market forces. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucraties, a managed economy and large-scale income redistribution. These visions are not reconcilable. We must choose.”
While I strongly disagree with M. Brooks normative standpoint (his support of free enterprise to the detriment of social equality), he does resume the ongoing political face-off pretty well. On the road to the primaries, the electoral campaign will bring national problems such as the struggling economy and the high unemployment rate (circa 10%) to the forefront. Essential will be determining which party is most responsible for them and whether laissez-faire or state-guided protectionism is the best means to tackle these challenges. Right after November 2nd, the battle for the presidency 2012 begins in earnest. As tea parties sprout across America, even Obama’s considerable personal charisma may prove short-handed in swaying the wary hearts of the American voters.