Monday, November 15, 2010

Obama Untethered

Conservatives will no doubt rejoice that Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen are calling on Obama to step down after one turn.  But a few important caveats.  First, Pat Caddell is a Democrat in the same sense that UB40 is a reggae band.  Second, the logic behind this article makes no sense whatsoever.

Caddell and Schoen reveal an utter distaste for elections, saying, "Governing and campaigning have become incompatible."  But let's set aside the moral repugnance of presidential advisers opposing democracy for a moment and deal with their argument on its own terms.  Only if Obama renounces his reelection, they argue, can he do the truly necessary work to improve the country.  This work apparently involves cutting spending.  Why is he more likely to do this work if he renounces a second term?  Because he'd be less beholden to the left and better able to work with Republicans:
If the president were to demonstrate a clear degree of bipartisanship, it would force the Republicans to meet him halfway. If they didn't, they would look intransigent, as the GOP did in 1995 and 1996, when Bill Clinton first advocated a balanced budget. Obama could then go to the Democrats for tough cuts to entitlements and look to the Republicans for difficult cuts on defense.
Right, concerns about looking intransigent should compel Republicans to work with Obama.  Never mind.  Why on Earth would an Obama who is not running for reelection be more likely to compromise with Republicans?  Of the 18 presidents who served during the 20th century*, five lost their reelection bids to candidates of the other party; zero went down to primary challenges.  In other words, if there's any pressure on Obama right now, it's more likely that he's feeling pulled toward the center than toward the extremes.  Obama knows that the chances of him losing to a Republican are greater than those of his being deposed by another Democrat.  Take away the reelection pressure, and what do you have?  An Obama who's more likely to move left than right.

Now, back to the moral repugnance.  I really don't understand pundits and pollsters who have such a hostile view toward democracy.  What evidence do we have that leaders who are either uninterested or incapable of seeking reelection are actually better at their jobs?  We have plenty of evidence pointing the other way.

*I'm counting McKinley and Ford, not counting W.

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