In the 1990s we had “triangulation” with Bill Clinton, especially after the Republican victory in ’94. And, this week, with Barry Obama and Scott Brown, we have “pivot”. As in, “The Presidential Pivot”.
In other words, “pivoting” off of health care reform to take on jobs. We saw a preview with this when Obama attended the wind factory (yes, wind energy, employs a mighty 85,000 people, sure, that’s where the jobs will come from, we’re all going to be wind farmers) and gave his thumping, angry, “populist” (another overused word this week) anger message.
Which is in fact quite bizarre if you really think about it. Seriously, you have Howard Dean out there with Chris Matthews saying that a vote for Scott Brown was a vote for the health care bill. Seriously. Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ui4ElSz_bKU.
I want some of what Howard Dean is packing in his pipe, I’m telling you. This is the left spin: the revolt was our revolt, of course it is, every revolt is our revolt (and of course the country did eventually “revolt” over Republican rule). But it’s been a year. Obama now owns the economy, the country, and Matthews correctly said to Dean: “You’re crazy.”
Seriously, if Dems want to go that way, go right ahead, because they are killing themselves over health care. You have people who put their careers on the line in the Senate — the esteemed senators of the “Louisiana Purchase” and the “Cornhusker Kickback” (Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson). To their credit, of which there is not much, they did bring home the bacon for their states, which is basically what we’re supposed to do — note Scott Brown’s repeated emphasis on Massachussetts citizens coming first. That’s a large part of his being elected; a feeling in MA of, “These states get these special deals? What about us?”). But Landrieu and Nelson tied their careers to a health care bill that is now dead, and it makes them look bad, and yes, leaves the Dems with a black eye.
Point is, Barry and Nancy and Harry tried to push the country too far to the left, and it sprang right back on them, because we’re still a center-right country. The White House strategy seems to be to try to jump and surf the very tide that is sucking them out. Obama actually says it’s the “same anger” that “swept” him into office. Oh, now come on, nobody is buying that, Mr. President, come on, the people were so upset at George Bush that they elected a Republican in Massachussetts? Even if you’re an avid Obama supporter — gimme a break, that’s a rather elaborate tapdance to go through.
So: the “pivot”. Instead of trying the populist anger — what, is Obama going to start running against his own administration? — try that 1990s thing: triangulation. Take issues away from the Republicans, make them their own, give them Democratic spin, and set them forth as your own original ideas. See: Bill Clinton and welfare reform. I thought Barry was as smart as Bubba. I may be wrong; he may try running even further to the left, as he’s a pretty hardcore ideologue. If so, as I said, more power to him.
So now we wait and see. Does Obama “pivot” off this and go forward, or does he do the same and go back? I think if he tries maintaining campaign-mode populist rhetoric as he did in Ohio, well, I think so far as to say I even say the ’12 presidential election getting shaky (I would not have said that six months ago).
Final Note — Message to the Republicans — Don’t gloat. You got Teddy Kennedy’s seat, okay, you can feel good about things, but you’re still going to have to ride out having a president who is, if not politically, personally very popular. Do not see Obama as too weak.