The word juggernaut is defined as a massive inexorable force that seems to crush everything in its way. It’s hard to find a more appropriate word to describe the tactics used by President Barack Obama in the beginning of his presidency.
His inclination to rush legislation through the proper channels before a serious debate and his overt use of the bully pulpit against all critics has only one flaw. This strategy turns the stomachs of the American public and often leads to a defeat for the party guilty of such heavy handed politics.
Obama’s power lies in his almost supernatural oratory skills, overall likeability and his most useful characteristic: not being George W. Bush. Using these three advantages, he rose in meteoric fashion to become the first black U.S. president.
However, like many politicians before him, he has misread the public and made what could be a calamitous error all too familiar with the left: he overreached.
In 1992, a charismatic young governor defeated an older, less articulate incumbent and became our 42nd president. One of the slogans of his campaign was to tout him as ‘The Man from Hope,’ as Hope, Ark. is the name of one of the towns he grew up in.
Bill Clinton swept into office and promptly raised taxes, scaled back the military, enacted ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and failed to overhaul health care. In 1994, a weary American public replaced eight Democrats with Republicans in the Senate.
A whopping 54 Democrats lost their seats in the House of Representatives in what was called ‘The Republican Revolution,’ which gave Republicans control of both houses for the first time in 40 years.
Without the friendly majority of Democrats, the Clinton itinerary changed dramatically.
Clinton’s identical twin, Obama, came from virtual obscurity to win his party’s nomination and later, the presidency.
He also borrowed the theme of ‘hope’ and essentially defeated former president George W. Bush, considering the 2008 election was more about Bush than John McCain.
Having a solid majority in the House and Senate, Obama, like Clinton, misread the political climate of the public.
The Obama administration has moved with ferocious speed, passing a $787 billion bailout and an unpopular Cap and Trade climate bill. He also attempted to close Guantanamo and investigated CIA interrogators who helped keep us safe and now, having learned nothing from Clinton’s follies, is trying to overhaul health care.
Many of his major policy positions are at odds with the sensibilities of Americans. By hiding behind the soaring vapidity of his orations and the soon to expire blame-Bush defense, Obama has deftly avoided serious scrutiny of his actual policies.
But it appears as though this juggernaut may have encountered an impervious barricade in the form of the American public and a group of fiscally conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs.
With Congress in recess and another looming holiday break, the president has precious little time in which to achieve his more controversial goals.
In 2010, many of the members of his party will be less likely to support policies their constituents do not like, fearing that they may lose the one thing they value most in life: their jobs.
By emulating Clinton’s early ’90s strategy, Obama may have inadvertently placed an artificial timetable on his own legislative goals.
With waning public support and the inevitable expiration of his blame-Bush defense, Obama has already committed the cardinal sin of overreaching.
Timothy Mathis is a history junior and may be reached at [email protected]