Politics & Media

Obama: A Two-Term Conservative

With the Republican Party careening ever rightward, President Obama stands for a conservatism that’s utterly lost on the Right.

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There are two things that will probably hand President Obama a relatively easy reelection: the nomination of Rick Santorum as the Republican nominee for president (not that likely), and the Right’s continued vein-popping attacks on birth control and reproductive rights (very likely).

Both scenarios represent how the Right is hewing close to its extreme flanks. As the economy breathes slightly easier and Obama continues to knock off terrorist after terrorist, there is less room for moderates such as Mitt Romney to distinguish themselves, and more oxygen to ignite blowhards like Santorum who prefer to fight for the resplendent America of the 1950s rather than look soberly at America today. It’s past the point of surprising: Republicans today bear little resemblance the far-gone Republicans of the 90s—the ones who supported health insurance mandates and cap and trade legislation and worked with Bill Clinton to pass real entitlement reform.

A political party clinging blindly to Grover Norquist pledges and decaying cultural values isn’t going to be relevant to a country with problems that far outweigh any simple tax ideology. Take contraception, for example

[S]pending less money on contraception services leads to higher health care costs and higher taxes. When Texas cut $73 million from state family planning services, the increase in unplanned pregnancies ended up costing $230 million in additional Medicaid burdens, according to the nonpartisan state Legislative Budget Board. The other result was more unintended pregnancies and, presumably, more abortions. Other states are considering similar measures.

Well done, Texas. You’ve saved the American girl from prostituting herself. Republican statehouses across the country are doubling down on Rush Limbaugh’s bet: that American women are happy to describe themselves as sluts and prostitutes and that no one—I mean, no one—has sex before marriage or uses birth control for anything other than having all the sex all the time. This, coming from a party that decided to throw a hissy fit over the debt ceiling because it was politically convenient—they can’t decide whether to save money or further alienate themselves from modern America.

Take spending on the Federal level. It’s old hat to remind readers that dear old Ronald Reagan was as much a tax-hiking Keynesian hellhound as any Democrat. It’s not old hat to put Obama’s tax record in perspective:

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“The correct answer to this question is that the tax burden on middle-class Americans has decreased during Obama’s presidency. More than one-third of the 2009 stimulus bill consisted of tax cuts, including expanded tax credits for workers, people with children, college students, homebuyers, and the unemployed. In 2010, Obama proposed and Congress accepted a substantial temporary reduction in the payroll tax, which was recently extended through 2012.”

Of course, the Bush-era tax cuts, unpaid for and costing trillions of dollars, haven’t gone anywhere. What about Federal spending?:

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Here’s a president who inherited a collapsing economy and a disastrous oreign policy portfoilio from the last handful of presidents, who has been the target of some of most ridiculous and sustained political and personal attacks in recent history—here’s a president who, with faults and shortcomings, is doing it. Little by little, he’s doing it. Not perfectly, not amazingly, with plenty of room for partisan disagreement—but it’s impossible to look at his record and not see that he is “conservative” in the historical sense of that word. Conservatism is a frame of mind and reference; it is a sense of doing things carefully and as correctly as possible. Democrats and Republicans alike can embody it.

And the guy frustrates the hell out of me. His Justice Department is out defending the assassination of American citizens without due process. His drone strikes are lethal, for the terrorists and the innocents they hide behind. The drug war still runs unchecked and barely diminished, if at all.

I get all that. I get liberal discontent. Liberal discontent is a good thing. Liberal discontent is what turned the Democratic presidential primary of 2008 into a crucible that created our fiercely able president and secretary of state. Compare that to the Republican circus, and be grateful, liberals.

Obama’s record is playing out like a liberal conservative. He’s used tax cuts and health care reform (which, according to the CBO, is set to save more money than previously imagined) and slowing the rate of spending while navigating the country out of a massive recession he had nothing to do with. He’s worked within the system without gutting it or transforming it.

Romney will most likely secure the nomination, probably via a little backroom dealing at the convention to secure the last hundred or so delegates he needs. Come the general election, he’ll be up against an opponent more conservative than himself.

DISCUSSION
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 16, 2012, 12:20PM
    Excellent spin, Andrew. And you're right that liberals shouldn't be kvetching about Obama. But more conservative than Romney? I don't think so. As of April 1, as the WSJ noted today, America will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. More than Sweden and France! Obama's a lucky cat: he drew an awful field of GOP candidates to challenge him. I suspect he'll be reelected, and then we'll see if in his first two years he really goes for it, ramming very liberal policy through before he becomes a lame duck, or, if he just dawdles along.
    Responses to this comment
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 16, 2012, 01:02PM
    I certainly agree with the first part and the luck part Russ. However, the highest tax rate canard is a losing position. We all know that the effective rate is far below that of Sweden and France once deductions are weighed in (not that i agree with current tax law at all). The simple fact is that Romney will always err towards the right where Obama will always err to the left. Otherwise, I think they are both fairly moderate thanks to what can actually pass the houses these days. It is why agree or disagree with his positions, Ron Paul is the only candidate who offers real change.
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 17, 2012, 07:22PM
    I am Rokth and I approve this message
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 18, 2012, 04:04PM
    I don't think it's all luck that the GOP field is as bad as it is. Daniels and Johnson can't get any traction in this field, and overall, with the economy recovering and the fact that Obama isn't some insane Marxist—well, it's not all that hard to see why the field is as bad as it is. The bible thumpers and culture warriors and unabashed panderers are the only ones getting anywhere. Tex, totally agree with you on the tax point. Wealthy individuals, businesses and corporations enjoy all sorts of advantages that lower and lower and lower their rates. Bank of America, BOeing, Citygroup, Exxon—these "people" have avoided paying billions in federal taxes year after year after year. Can't really agree with you on Paul, though, excepting hi stances on the drug war and foreign policy. Everything else of his is straight bonkers.
    Responses to this comment
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 19, 2012, 11:39AM
    Daniels isn't "getting any traction" because he decided not to run. Nor did Thune or Christie. That's why I say Obama lucked out, just as the first Bush did in '88 when Dukakis emerged as his challenger.
    Responses to this comment
  • Go to comment.
    Mar 19, 2012, 02:13PM
    Where Obama got lucky was that Thune, Daniels and Christie could not run and do well. They were not loud enough supporters of the Tea Party in 2010 to get the Tea Party mantel and money away from Perry, Bachman and the other social conservatives while at the same time not denouncing the Tea Party enough to satisfy the moderates and independents. Had Christie called B.S. on the Tea Party the way he calls B.S. on Dems he'd have been a shoe in.
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