What the battle over national health care could only portend has now come into glaring reality in the wake of the BP Oil Gusher, which is well into month two and showing no signs of slowing. It is official; the president of the United States has lost the Left.
All the crazy talk from the extreme Right about birth certificates and irrational blabbering about a weird amalgam of fascism and communism with a dollop of radicalism mixed in has masked the growing unrest on the side that counts for Barack Obama. There is no presidency without the Left and certainly no prayer of a second term either.
It appears that by the third paragraph of his first Oval Office address things for Liberal Central have gone from sickly to flat-lined for Joe Cool. Perhaps it’s a penchant to wait an agonizingly long time to chime in on events that directly affect his presidency or his almost detached sense of intellectual miasma that has raised the ire of his most rabid supporters, but whatever lip service the Obama address paid to a need for alternative energy and environmental concerns, the broaching of which had the Right in a predicable froth, turned out to be nothing more than a fart in the wind for liberals.
No carbon tax. No Cap & Trade. No steadfast demand for a detailed Energy Bill or a harsher rebuke for Big Oil.
The Left had first whispered, then wailed about what is now pretty much universally accepted as the worst man-made environmental disaster in the history of this nation becoming another missed opportunity to jam home legislation to reshape the country. As it seems was the failure to include a Single Payer Option in the watered down Health Care Bill or a stronger demand for Immigration Reform as the ethnic, cultural, and social lines were being drawn in Arizona. Not to mention the still open-for-business Gitmo after huge revelations of illegal torture techniques sanctioned by the previous administration. Oh, and by the way, there are still two wars a-raging, one that has now become this president’s own dubious gamble in Afghanistan.
But the BP disaster is such a slam dunk for the Left and its many environmentalists vs. big business crowd, it appears almost comical that what they believed in the autumn of 2008 was their president would not exploit it more fervently, as say the glut of neo-cons who dove headlong into a complete Middle East reconstruction during the country’s lust for vengeance following 9/11.
For a short time these past weeks there was an outcry about the president’s lack of leadership during this crisis, which on the surface appears dumb, but when studied more closely, is patently asinine. Leadership? Did we need fireside chats or blustery speeches? Maybe we were looking for him to don a flak jacket and fishing togs and stroll along the surf shaking his head despondently, giving impromptu press conferences while hosing down cranes.
So of course the White House brain trust comes up with bright idea to sit Joe Cool at the Oval Office to say the same thing every president for the past half century has said about “weaning ourselves from a dependence on oil” and “developing alternative energies” and “holding Big Oil accountable” and “devising new regulations”, while calling for a series of special commissions to dig fancy trenches under the sea.
It was hardly Obama’s finest moment and registered uncharted rancor among liberals everywhere from the media to college campuses to the furthest reaches of intelligentsia. Many wept like children, others just bitched like, well, bitches.
And although the Left went ballistic on the last two Democratic presidents, it is still astounding how much this one, a different model on so many levels, resembles the last truly effective Republican chief executive.
After the first two years it was becoming glaringly evident to all in the Reagan administration that the Right had gone from intermittent gripers to an outright mutiny. Complaints of The Gipper being soft on the Russians, cow towing to the stalwarts in congress, and revealing a more reserved sense of compromise and level headedness that resembled nothing of the rousing candidate they had championed so fervently, Reagan’s once soaring approval ratings dipped severely as he faced a good old-fashioned mid-term horse-whipping.
Like Obama, a charismatic symbol of the newly charged era of progressivism, Reagan’s repackaged conservatism made him a different breed of Republican. But what Reagan learned and Obama has now come to realize is that when expectations to take down the status quo and wreck the system from the Right or the Left is met with the rigors and demands of actually running the immovable monstrosity that is the Free World, there remains for your hardcore base only disappointment.
Obama’s Health Care Crusade in the face of rising unemployment and at best a vacillating economic recovery, sent much of his Independent support running, but despite lukewarm to despondent reaction from the Left, whose majority believe its results a grotesque genuflect to insurance moguls, the BP spill has become the last straw.
Mere months after one of the most unlikely and politically savvy victories of any president, Barack Obama has reached the critical crossroads of his presidency. With far less experience than Reagan and with a much less empathetic rival party, which has treated his first two years as if he were more usurper than elected official, Obama has to use the Reagan model of small victories, appear unifying, and begin to rebuild a trust inevitably eroded by the toughest gig of them all.
One of the greatest lessons to be learned from the unerringly positive approach to politics displayed by the Gipper when times get tough is to tell your base if they don’t like it they can go back to the way things were with the other guys in charge.
Then blame everything else on the press.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, and “Midnight For Cinderella”.