Now he's done it -- the most Republican of modern Democratic presidents has violated the cosmic political order, that inescapable fluctuation wherein the disgraced party triggers the inevitable, system-saving reversal. Since Ford lost to Carter, this pattern rules our politics -- left-right-left-right. But now the Obama Deviation -- right follows right, thus undermining the natural balance that keeps us from toppling over completely.
Offending not just his base but history itself, Obama is derailing the very back and forth (or for cynics switching which power elite rules) that preserves our residual democracy. In the old days conservative fiascos birthed liberal backlashes, and vice versa, the ebb and flow I once thought a law of our political nature. Until now.
Of course, I grew up long ago when political parties were distinguishable -- one leaning liberal and promoting government for the majority (though not all) and one leaning conservative full of business types fighting regulation but not progressive taxation, disliking unions or sharing too much wealth. But they did so without sabotaging national unity at every turn. Rarely were elections bare-knuckled battles, where the winner was the last one standing. Until the 1980's, fundamentalist know-nothings were less politicized and less organized -- rightly wary, with average means, of mistaken, knee-jerk alignment of their self-interest with that of the filthy rich.
In fact, vs. modern regressives, Republicans then were far less appalling, except on women's and civil rights. My least favorite, Nixon the Liar, started the EPA, cooled Cold War and nuclear tensions, even exited Vietnam. Contrast today's "anti-war" president, with a surfeit of stalemated wars he won't declare over. Believe it or not, the post-Vietnam "Nixon Doctrine" allowed U.S. aid (not troops or planes) but only to allies whose own soldiers fought in self-defense. Ah, the good old days before our invading G.I.s spread across hundreds of bases and dozens of bloody "theatres."
No Drama Obama, No Payoff
Clearly, two grueling years of Obama's rightward centrism -- aside from mystifying his base -- has derailed the pendulum shift that pledged four, vaguely liberal White House years. I'll take one major progressive gain, thank you. Having endured W.'s two terms ransacking of government, our prize is Barack -- Surrender without Firing -- Obama? What a letdown for a country, exhausted from self-inflicted shock and awe, hoping less for miracles or breakthroughs than a clear change in direction, even tone, towards healing and restoration. On redeeming the Constitution, who finds more than band-aids, let alone awareness from Obama that outsourcing torture is not ending it and military tribunals remain primitive non-solutions to terrorism?
After Nixon, the country understood how an abusive, tyrannical president devastated our system and values -- thus the embrace of upright Carter. After Reagan-Bush, the country understood the price for divisive, culture-war politics, thus the shift to a softer Clinton who "felt everyone's pain." As Reagan-HW Bush "answered" Carter's shortcomings, Clinton's wobbly centrism answered Reagan-Bush's wrong-headed tunnel vision, which rebounded (alas, thanks to Bubba's impeachment) into nefarious W. years -- but that presaged the progressive, historic sweep by our first minority chief executive.
Is it shocking for Democrats to expect a few, nominal transformative shifts from a transformative-sounding candidate? Why after two+ years are progressives still claiming we live more in Bush III than Obama I? Endless, incredibly mortifying wars are proliferating, not ending -- and Obama will not again command legislative power without regaining the Congress, a receding likelihood. Obama fights far better in Afghanistan or Libya against shadows than for his own voters on our shores.
The Most Republican Democrat
For me, having a Republican as president (whatever his party) is bad policy and bad governance -- and truly bad politics for a Democrat. Indeed, a debilitated Obama who refuses to take charge fuels not only today's rightwing snapback but a full-fledged reactionary tsunami in the wings. If Obama cannot seriously heal the country with a Democratic Congress, nor compete with a Tea Party Congress, where's the "stop-loss" against more empowered reactionaries? For the first time, I envision body blows to the New Deal, the Great Society, and anything else splattered with liberalism, like "socialist" Medicare.
So much for the flash-in-the-pan Tea Party, which some deluded liberals still view as a short term "effect." Not quite over yet, is it, as this House minority commandeers our federal government, agenda, and discourse. Our strangely AWOL president can pop up now and again to claim suspect victories, but he's barely holding his own as equal partner in policy or funding. He is now the great reactor, the master perhaps of presidential ceremonies, but increasingly not his own fate.
A Multiplicity of Routs
Indeed, the latest rightwing budget rout only confirms Democratic surrenders -- the neocon war rout, the sustained rights violations rout, the Wall Street regulation rout, the protect-the-environment rout -- even the dastardly Bush tax rate extension rout. Bewitched and bewildered, the left and center 1) opposed two endless wars but now face three; 2) voted to redeem the Constitution, and wait in vain; and 3) reacted to a strongly authoritarian GOP White House by electing a weak authoritarian regime (re: rendition, secret prisons, assassination program).
Of course this bloodless White House cheers on the puniest 2012 GOP challengers -- the pathetic Donald Trump, the gaseous Michelle Bachmann, the goofy Mike Huckabee, certainly the has-been, past her sell-by-date, Sarah Tweety Bird. Though aiming to collect one billion campaign bucks, cringing Democrats are past hope but into prayer they face a stick figure no more appealing than Romney or Gingrich.
My worried Obama friends still favor him over "something far worse," but if the GOP takes the Senate, a likelihood today, the presidential "winner" would be cornered at every turn (with a rightwing Supreme Court, too). Obama would become ceremonial indeed, more like a pretend president, even a chained, baited (foreign-born) bear. And Jeb Bush or his ilk in 2016 could well complete the extremist rout, summoning a generation of pro-rich, anti-government to America. Well, that's one kind of audacity of change -- and Obama's contribution, namely his pendulum violation, can't be wholly blamed on the right.