Can Scott Brown Help President Obama Get Re-Elected?January 24th, 2010 by Lee Eldridge
So much going on, and so little time to write about it. Healthcare reform appears to be dead. Obama is going after the banks. The tragedy in Haiti. The bickering on the left over the loss in Massachusetts. The gloating from the right over the win in Massachusetts. Conan O’Brien’s $45 million settlement with NBC. But a thought crossed my mind this last week. Can Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts actually help President Obama get re-elected in 2012? And the answer is yes.
Learning from History
Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992 after receiving only 43 percent of the popular vote. He entered his first term on shaky ground. He wasn’t well liked by democrats or republicans in Congress. And he certainly didn’t have much public support on his side. Dick Morris has often told the story about how President Clinton had wanted to work with both sides of the aisle in Congress, but was quickly pulled aside by democratic leaders and told no. Democrats controlled Congress, and for the first time in a dozen years controlled the White House. This was their time to push their agenda.
During the first two years of his presidency, Clinton is probably best known for his failures in healthcare reform (socialized medicine) and allowing gays in the military. The American people spoke loudly against these two liberal policy initiatives and voted the democrats out of Congress in 1994. Clinton’s support remained low.
Does any of this sound similar to our current situation? It should.
I have long contended that Clinton was more a creature of politics than a creature of ideals. Despite his other shortcomings, I’ve always believed that Clinton wanted what was best for the country. I think it was more important to him to get good work accomplished, than it was to promote a specific “liberal” or “moderate” or “conservative” agenda. He worked closely with the new republican leadership in Congress on welfare reform and several other policy initiatives. And in convincing fashion won re-election in 1996. This time Clinton received more than 49% of the popular vote. While not a majority, keep in mind that Ross Perot received more than 8% of the popular vote (down from about 19% in ’92). Clinton beat his republican adversary Bob Dole by nearly 10 points.
In ’94, Bill Clinton looked like a one-term president. But after moving to the middle and working with Congress in a bipartisan manner, Clinton easily won re-election in ’96.
President Obama Has a Choice
It is certainly true that President Obama entered office with significantly more public support than Bill Clinton. But like Clinton, Obama has bowed to the powers that be in Congress. A democratically controlled Congress. He’s allowed Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to dictate the direction of policy initiatives, from the budget and economic stimulus, to healthcare reform. There has been no attempt at “transparency” or “bipartisanship” coming out of Washington as Obama had promised on the campaign trail. The stimulus hasn’t worked. People are out of work. The budget and size of the federal government is spiraling out of control. The deficit is ballooning. People still don’t support socialized medicine. And Americans are angry.
The republicans have already taken a few special elections from the democrats with wins in New Hampshire, Virginia and now Massachusetts. And they will most certainly pickup seats in both the senate and the house later this year. But this brings us back to President Obama. Is he a creature of politics like Bill Clinton? Or a creature of ideals glued to a liberal agenda? The liberals might be able to explain away the losses in New Hampshire and Virginia, but Massachusetts was a significant blow to the democrats. Will Scott Brown’s victory be a wake-up call to the President?
If this week was any indication, it appears that President Obama will continue to blame others for our current situation. I’ve never found the blame game very appealing. But to Obama and his inner circle, the economy is still Bush’s fault. And the failure to pass healthcare reform was because of misinformation spread by rightwing organizations. In Obama’s world, American voters who oppose Obama-care are misguided and misinformed.
The President’s State of the Union speech this week will give us a glimpse into how Obama plans to spend his next few years. He still has time to alter the course of his agenda and win a second term. The clock is ticking.