“We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle” – Winston Churchill
Going back to William McKinley, the years of consecutive holding of the presidency by the political parties are: R(16), D(8), R(12), D(20), R(8), D(8), R(8), D(4), R(12), D(8), R(8), D(4 … and counting). You’ll see in there only one time when a party held the office for only one term. That was Jimmy Carter.
In this time, there were 10 elections where the newly empowered party had to defend the office after only four years in power. They are 9-1 in those elections (again, Jimmy Carter is the only one who managed to lose). In those 10 elections, the popular vote margins for the incumbent party were: 3%, 25%, 24%, 15%, 22%, 23%, -10% (Carter!), 18%, 9%, and 2%. Carter lost. Only two other incumbents, Woodrow Wilson (who single-handedly took the country to war), and George W. Bush (who single-handedly … you get the idea) got 8% or under. Those other numbers look like absolute landslides – and they were.
Just how beatable is Obama? History suggests he’s in pretty good shape. Changing parties often involves disgust with what the previous party has done; disgust that doesn’t necessarily go away with time. This isn’t always true, mind you. The nation’s “disgust” with Clinton was not economic or “country headed in the wrong direction” related – it was his philandering. Gore barely lost (after winning the popular vote) and Bush snuck in. This isn’t really a disgust story.
Obama is different though. He was elected specifically because of disgust with George W. Bush and the Republicans. The federal government spent just under $1.8 trillion in 2000, Bill Clinton’s last year. In 2008, George W. Bush’s last year, the number was just under $3 trillion … he was a conservative?
OK, so where am I going? I have yet to buy into the “Obama doesn’t stand a chance” mantra. But the president said something today that gave me pause.
The president and congress are in rather intense negotiations regarding the crushing federal deficit. Republican leaders want serious spending cuts, and Democrats want revenue increases (nothing new). Republicans have drawn an interesting, and perhaps mildly defensible line in the sand regarding no tax increases. (I say mildly defensible because the president’s position is logical farce. You cannot jack up spending by unimaginable levels and then claim to want to meet in the middle.)
In the midst of this debate, the president went off script. He usually sticks to the old canard of “we can’t balance the budget on the backs of the most needy” – total crap, but a good political line. (Why total crap? Nothing is on the backs of the people who don’t produce. You can certainly argue about how it may by difficult for them, but you cannot possibly argue about how they’re being made to give more … they don’t give anything.)
This time though, he tried to steal a traditional conservative line and insert his own brand of thinking. The president said, I kid you not, “we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity.”
… I’m going to let you think about that for a moment …
… got it? …
Conservatives are always saying things like “we can’t spend our way to prosperity.” Naturally they’re right. The only way to even defend spending your way to prosperity is to claim that freedom itself is threatened (e.g. war on the horizon) and we have to harm prosperity now (by spending more) to ensure freedom later, which will produce prosperity. That is to say, you can’t defend spending more on the basis of prosperity – only on the basis of something greater than prosperity (like freedom).
For Obama to utter such absurd words is really out-of-kilter. Does he actually believe this nonsense? If he does, then he will be pressed on the issue in a presidential debate and will get taken to the cleaners. Did his internal polling indicate that the old line of attack wasn’t working and he needed something, anything different? Does he think America believes this?
Here’s another question, does he think for one second that this won’t be one of the first attack ads of the general election?
[roll video clip] “we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity” … [stern midwestern voice-over] “Mr. president, cutting federal spending is the only way we can get to prosperity.”
For crying out loud, everybody knows that! Well, everybody who’s not a bureaucrat, Washington insider, or Keynsian clown. But there ain’t enough of them to win an election.
Is Obama beatable? After what I just heard, I’d have to say his prospects are dwindling.