The "Right" Kind of Populism

Last week, in light of the stunning loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, I pointed out the two forks in the road for Democrats in general and President Obama, specifically.

The left fork led them down the path of Progressive politics, which is the platform he, and they, ran on during the historic 2008 election. This would have them focusing on Job creation through domestic infrastructure improvements, a 6 month moratorium on foreclosures, creation of a federal loan modification agency, launching investigations into how and who crashed the financial system in 2008, tearing up the Health Insurance bill and forcing through a Health Care bill that covers every American, and embracing direct government lending to small businesses to get the economy rolling.

Exit polling from Massachusetts showed voters were displeased with the President and Democrats because they were not being Progressive enough, not because of spending. 

This seems like a lot, but President Lyndon Johnson did more, and in less time.

The other, right, fork led down the path pocked with the footsteps of Bill Clinton. This fork led to governing from under the desk in the Oval Office, embracing the ideology of the Right in hopes of squelching the criticism from the Conservative media.

President Obama, as I thought he would, has take his first, Jesse Owens-sized leap down the path on the right.

In announcing a $400+ billion DOMESTIC spending cut, President Obama has embraced the three-headed dragon of Conservative policy. And resoundingly so. The Conservative credenda requires:

  1. Cutting government spending on Americans. It is so easy to call it "domestic," but in fact, all things domestic have to do with Americans. The "Domestic Spending" argument from the Right has been code language for "Americans have too many services," though we rank nearly last among our Western counterparts in nearly every category.
  2. Not touching Defense Spending. This is important for the right because this is where they all go to die, or retire, or go after they retire from politics. The privatized militias and defense contractors are all run by, not just Republicans, but hyper-Neo Conservative Republicans, the Rightest of the Right. There is never, EVER any fat to be skimmed away from this part of the budget, though it comprises nearly 50% of the entire Federal expenditure each year. Obama chose to leave these in the category of "hands off" in his cutting.
  3. Balancing the Budget. This is the most oft-repeated phrase you will hear from the Right. the problem is, they do not believe in it, do not pursue it when in power and only make it a platform when they are thrown out of office after going on spending sprees that would make Imelda Marcos blush. Ronald Reagan, the deity himself, said (while he was in office, of course) "deficits don't matter." This of course while he was busy spending more money than all 6 Presidents before him, including some on illegal weapons deals that were part of Iran-Contra. George W. Bush put the country in a debt box from which the country could not possibly emerge, but now, after 8 years of silence while putting the tab for two wars off the books, it's time to balance the budget. The purpose of the Domestic cuts by President Obama is to meet this measure.

So he's running to the Right, and, barring a shocking, 180 degree directional shift during his State of the Union speech, look for Democrats to fall in lock-step.

I wondered what he would be able to say from the pulpit on Wednesday night, with his first year being so full of fluff ("concerns, conviction . . .the emotional kind, sympathizing and being clear") and dander (Heath Care? Murder at a yet-to-be-closed Gitmo? Afghanistan? Pakistan drone escalation? Iraq continues? No Climate legislation? No Green Jobs? Bonus Scandals? Resurgence of the opposition party? 10% Unemployment? Failed Mortgage Relief programs? Monster Banks? Bankrupt Municipalities? Massive Trade Deficits? Blanket Immunity for CIA? Prosecuting Whistle-blowers? Loss of 2 Governors and Ted Kennedy's Senate Seat? Rise of the Tea-Baggers?)? I guess the answer comes in the form of this announcement. 

While watching the speech on Wednesday, expect the Democrats to give standing ovations for nearly everything the President says. And though the last time he spoke to Congress he was called a "liar" mid-speech, when President Obama announces the Domestic Spending Freeze, expect the Republicans to get out of their chairs to take their two hands off the neck of Congressional legislative pipeline, and applaud this "Right" kind of populism.

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