Thursday, May 13, 2010

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

In "Obama Beats Bennett," subtitled "How Washington defeated a Senator," the Wall Street Journal weighed in on the defeat of three-term U.S. Senator last weekend at the nominating convention of Utah's Republican Party. Read the piece. Read it again. Read it a third time. It still will make no sense.

The editors "admit to liking Mr. Bennett," in part because of the health care bill he authored with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), which they believe was better than "Obamacare." But they claim

the man who really defeated Mr. Bennett is President Obama. By governing so far to the left—so far that even the Wyden-Bennett plan was dismissed as too conservative by Democrats—Mr. Obama has made U.S. politics even more polarized. The internal GOP debate has naturally shifted right, as Republican voters look for standard-bearers who will fight the historic expansion of the welfare-entitlement state. This makes it tough for middle-of-the-roaders.

Follow this if you can. Senator Bennett's response to the health care plan pushed by President Obama, highly unpopular among Republicans, was his own health care plan (co-sponsored by Wyden). It was an alternative to Obamacare. He offered an alternative to a bill associated with the Democratic President. He fought the good fight, as it would presumably appear to Republicans. His bill did not prevail and he proceeded to vote against Obama's program. And his defeat in the GOP convention thus can be attributed to.... Obama?

If the President is as unpopular among Republicans as polls indicate and The Wall Street Journal believes, one would think that GOP voters would coalesce around someone, or some set of beliefs, which would surely defeat Obama and the dreaded Democratic Congress. They would, logically, turn to a conservative Republican with the kind of experience that Obama, the "community organizer" (as he is slammed by many Republicans), allegedly lacks.

Senator Bennett, although not so young that he would have been considered presidential timber, would seem to have been that kind of conservative. But as the WSJ concedes, "the internal GOP debate has naturally shifted right, as Republican voters look for standard-bearers who will fight the historic expansion of the welfare-entitlement state."

That is what defeated Robert Bennett, never an advocate for, or supporter of, "the welfare-enitlement state." It is a party which seems collectively to have decided- unlike President Obama- to secure its base first, second, and third. If then independents want to come aboard, there is room- but they'll have to wait in line and toe the line.

This cannot be blamed on President Obama. This cannot be blamed on a Democrat who ran on a liberal platform but once elected, kept American soldiers in one war (understandably more popular with Republicans than Democrats) started by a GOP president, increased American involvement in another war (understandably more popular among Republicans than among Democrats), maintained the national security policies of the previous, right-wing president, responded to the greatest downturn in America since the Great Depression with a relatively piddling economic stimulus, and pushed a health care reform bill supported by the hospital and pharmaceutical industries and which will hand 30+ million more customers to the private insurance industry. More Santa Claus than socialist, President Obama opposed most reform of the financial services industry- until a bill supported across the political spectrum demonstrated such widespread bipartisan support that it was passed unanimously. Less a partisan than a bipartisan facilitator.

It's arguable that, as The Wall Street Journal maintains, President Obama and Congress have "radicalized the middle class." It's hard to imagine that the paper (it's not called The Wall Street Journal for nothing) would even recognize the middle class, just as it's hard to understand why a middle class which has had an effective cut in its taxes by a centrist president would be increasingly "radicalized." But as the bastion of traditional conservative Republicanism, the WSJ, playing the victim card, has to find a victim(s) for its party going off the ideological deep end.

The country has become more conservative due to many factors, including effective messaging by the GOP, partisan talk radio, and dominance of cable news by the communications arm (Fox News) of the Republican Party. Meanwhile, if the policies of the pragmatic and centrist President Obama and the Congress have contributed to the rightward tilt of the populace, it says less about them than about the distortion of the public debate by the nation's most conservative institutions.

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