When I was reading Charles Krauthammer’s column about President Obama’s “fall” (not as in “autumn”), I was reminded of how weary and predictable “Republican,” “Democratic,” “conservative,” and “liberal” punditry is. I put these terms in scare-quotes because although they do refer to people and positions, in reality they are like four eels in a bucket of water. It’s not so much the positions pundits take or the arguments they make that disappoint; it’s the broader predictable game, wherein Obama (in this instance) is “bad” because he is on the other team. I was about to write that political punditry seems adolescent, but I think that would be unkind to adolescents, who often make fresh, effective arguments.
Before I mention some annoying particulars of Krauthammer’s column, I should note that I admire CK’s grit. His having dealt with a devastating injury when he was in college and having achieved significantly in medicine, psychiatry, and journalism are at least impressive.
That said, it is of note that he once wrote speeches for Walter Mondale, so it seems that Krauthammer, like so many others, has supported all the eels in the bucket at one time or another. He has a right to change political views, of course, but at the same time, readers have a right to wonder about the role of expediency and cynicism.
In the present column, Krauthammer equates Obama’s 46 % approval rating with a “fall” of “liberalism,” and he attributes the fall to Obama’s having over-reached. Krauthammer thinks Obama was elected because of dissatisfaction with Bush and because of the economic crisis, certainly not because voters were interested in health-care reform (this latter point I inferred).
Then Krauthammer asserts that American politics is played between the 30 yard lines (of American football). The analogy made me tired: yet another sports metaphor. Then it amused me because, when analyzed, the analogy suggests that American politics never or rarely achieves goals–by design! “Remember–never score! We don’t want to wake the spectators!”
Krauthammer asserts that “Americans” (all of them–he follows them on Twitter) don’t want the “European style democracy” (ESD) that Obama’s policies reflect. There are almost too many hidden assumptions in this assertion to leave it standing as an assertion. What does he mean by ESD? Consider the political and social differences between and among Italy (Berlusconi is no liberal), Germany, Spain, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, and England. Second, what policy has supported that is “European”? Trying to get more people signed up for health insurance? This is what qualifies as dangerously European? And note that “European” is somehow automatically bad, as if we cowboys and cowgirls don’t like no city slicker coming to town with funny ideas about everybody seeing the doc, y’hear? The other major policy-decision Obama made was to press for a “rescue” of banks and, by extension, Wall Street institutions. What else was he supposed to do? Sing “Nine-teen twenty-nine/It was a very good year”? And how is propping up capitalist institutions that self-lacerated because of greed “liberal”?
Is Krauthammer wrong in his assertions? I don’t know because, in effect, there are no assertions, only exaggerations and prefabricated insults of the guy on the other eel’s team, to mix bucket- and sports-metaphors horrifically. For whatever reasons, Krauthammer decided to write public relations columns on behalf of Republican politicians. Other pundits decided to write p.r. for Democrats. These are career-choices, but the writing, rhetoric, and analyses that spring from them dim rather than enlighten.
So, if Obama and Dems are “in trouble,” why? I don’t know, but like some political scientists, I suspect that it has more to do with a partly structural, partly managed ebb and flow of whims expressed by those contacted in polls and those who register to vote and, perhaps, cast votes. By “structural” I mean that shifts in popularity of the two behemoth parties follow larger cultural changes but not specific rational choices, and by “managed” I simply mean that media and those who make a living trying to hypnotize voters benefit from the ebb and flow and thus try, at least, to avoid stasis. I suspect the Dems’ trouble has about as much to do with rational thought and/or ideology as my writing this post has to do with my cat’s mood.