October 20, 2011
The Cosmic Insignificance of Dead Dictators in American Electoral Politics, Tra La
A friend of mine frets that today's capture and execution of Muammar Qaddafi will change the dynamic of the 2012 presidential election, starting a cascade of support for the embattled incumbent that will allow him to eke out a narrow victory. Many readers may likewise worry that this putative "victory" for Barack H. Obama will "turn the tide," undoing everything conservatives, tea partiers, and even Republicans have done to try to restore fiscal and regulatory sanity to the country, along with the blessing of liberty that are now so imperiled.
But I reject the very premise that this happy death will affect Obama's electoral chances whatsoever. Here's why.
President B.O. has long since proven himself a fool as far as actual governance goes; but if he tries to grab credit for the death of Qaddafi, killed by as yet unknown rebels within the anti-Qaddafi alliance very loosely controlled by the so-called National Transitional Council, Obama will prove himself a fool even as a politician.
(As of this moment, AP is trying to push the meme that Qaddafi's death is part of "a string of foreign policy victories this year for the Obama administration" for Obama; but the President himself is disclaiming personal credit. For a man as conceited as he, that can only mean even he thinks it will not be helpful to his campaign. Consider: The killing of Osama bin Laden was clearly of tremendously greater significance to Americans than the killing of Qaddafi; yet the former assassination yielded only a two-week blip in Obama's approval polling, before it resumed its slide towards Obamic irrelevancy.)
So why doesn't this "victory" translate into a big boost to Obama's faltering reelection campaign, even on the foreign-policy front?
- The death of Qaddafi does not signify the end of hostilities; it signals only the transition from rebellion against tyranny to full civil war. The NTC controls nothing; there are countless armed militias and armies based in many different regions throughout what used to be called Libya (I say that because I expect the country to fracture into several countries -- de facto if not de jure!) These armed groups will never peacefully surrender their arms (hence their power) to any one of the many factions; they will fight their way to a seat at the big table. Does Obama really want to claim "credit" for a massive civil war with tens or hundreds of thousands of dead in a failed nation of only six and a half million?
Because Obama tried to do this on the cheap, without sending any serious contingent of the American military, we shall have next to nothing to say about the ultimate configuration (if any) that X-Libya takes. It could easily end up more like Afghanistan than like Turkey or Iraq, and might even be more like Iran. Does Obama really want to claim credit for Libya going from a brutal fascist dictatorship under Qaddafi to a brutal, radical-Islamist dictatorship under a Muslim Brotherhood-based terrorist coalition?
Oh yeah; that'll boost his reelection chances.
- Any putative political benefit the administration might hope to gain due from the Libyan situation already happened when Qaddafi was driven from power months ago; the dénouement of Qaddafi's bodily death is actually an anticlimax. It will likely produce nothing but a shrug from voters before they return to worrying about the economy and Obamacare.
Finally, the entire country knows that Obama tried to "lead from behind" in the Libya adventure; he refused even to take the lead role in the NATO involvement, let alone the lead role in the fighting.
We mostly fought with drone planes armed with Hellfire missiles. While this reticence may have been justified, given the uncertainty of outcome, the One cannot then turn around and believably claim to be Dwight David Eisenhower, or even David Petraeus. We did little, and the whole world knows it.
Maybe it was a good we did little; frankly, I wish we had done even less. But passive acquiescence isn't the "right stuff" on which a jubilant reelection is founded. I believe that Obama has maybe a 30% chance of being reelected; weirder things have happened in presidential years. But the chance that the death of Qaddafi will in any way influence the American presidential election is nil, as near as makes no difference.
The 2012 election -- like every presidential election -- will turn on three cosmic issues, none of which lines up in Obama's favor:
The voters' assessment of Obama's character and tenure, which at the moment is hovering just slightly above the similar assessment of George W. Bush in 2008.
But of course, Bush wasn't running for reelection then; sorry, B.O.
This assessment alone is the strongest force pushing towards Obama's defeat: As president, he comes across as weak, vain, vacillating, pompous, incompetent, cowardly, bullying, and peevish; and his policies have almost uniformly enraged the electorate ever since the passage of Obamacare (without a single Republican vote).
- The continuing and deteriorating economic situation, exacerbated by policies such as the trillion-dollar stimulus; the failed attempt at a second, half-trillion-dollar bride of stimulus; the tax increases; continual threats of more punitive actions against "the rich" and more redistributionist policies; the staggering number of major, new regulations inhibiting business from recovering; the terrible economic uncertainties stemming from Obamacare; Obama's war on fossil fuels and nuclear power, which has crippled our ability to develop sufficient energy to run a rich country of 300 million souls; and the economic "epistemic closure" of the minds of his advisors and cabinet members, the pandemic of ignorance about Capitalism actually works, which has ripped through the organs of government like fast-moving financial neurovirus, leaving every public civic agency and institution in a state of anti-market madness.
The utter folly of Obama's foreign policy, notwithstanding AP's "string of foreign policy victories." This election, foreign policy is of lesser impact than the other two elements of reelection; but it's still significant, both for the disrespect and mockery which other countries now turn upon America (where once was respect and even fear), and also for the forced kow-towing to Red China (we're so desperate for their investment, which keeps us from total collapse), and our inexplicable, fatalist acquiescence to the provocations of Iran.
Iran's obvious contempt for us as adversary rose to a crescendo with the massive terrorist bombings Iran tried to perpetrate on American soil, attacks thwarted only because the FBI and DEA took time out from their busy schedule of funneling automatic weapons to Mexican drug lords to befool the Iranian agent at the core of the terrorist attacks.
Those three questions -- assessment of the first term, of the economic state of the Union, and of foreign policy -- are the three legs of the reelection stool for any president. They vary in respective importance from election to election, depending on the situation; but taken together, they nearly always determine the outcome. And the voters' assessments of President B.O. are in freefall on all three fronts.
Can Obama turn it all around in the remaining twelvemonth? It would take divine (or diabolical) intervention to reverse the trendline and pull off what would be the greatest electoral comeback in American history.
But even the possibility of such intervention is stifled by Obama himself, who appears, astonishingly, to believe that he's been a spectacularly good president, that he still enjoys the 70% approval he had right after being elected, and that the people simply love his policies; he thus sees no reason to change even jot or tittle of policy or demeanor. The President thinks that all he must do to be swept into a second term by general acclamation -- possibly without even the fuss and feathers of an election -- is just explain himself better, so the rabble understand his transcendent brilliance and how lucky America is that he has deigned to become our philosopher king. He thinks that he needs only give another speech or two, or fifty, and all will be well.
But for most Americans and for some time now, his speeches have had the opposite effect: They solidify dissent and convince voters that Obama is even more clueless today than in 2008. When charged with being all hat and no cattle, the very worst defense the accused can offer is -- another speech!
For these and many other reasons sufficient to my mind, I cannot see Barack H. Obama managing to pull yet another rabbit out of his sleeve. He had a phenomenal run of luck in 2008, both in world events and in picking the perfect opponent; but such "perfect storms" happen only once in a century. To slightly paraphrase George Orwell, the liberal-fascist octopus has sung its swan song.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 20, 2011, at the time of 4:45 PM
The following hissed in response by: Beldar
This is well-argued. My reaction to Obama's policies and actions, and to most of the events mentioned in this post, is the same as your, Dafydd.
But my Democratic friends, including many who presently are dispirited about Obama and his reelection prospects, perceived many of these events differently than we did. Or they have accepted highly spun versions of the underlying facts. Or they focus on other issues with different (or often no) metrics for measuring a president's success. From their point of view, Obama has already had a "phenomenal run of luck" — all bad — and he's due for some good luck for a change. They think it no more improbable that Team Obama 2012 could produce a sequel even better than the 2008 campaign than it was improbable that George Lucas could produce a sequel better than "Star Wars" or that Francis Ford Coppola could produce a sequel better than "The Godfather." And Bill Clinton's job approval ratings in October 1995 were around 40% — about where Obama's are now — yet they were back up near 60 by the November 1996 election, in which Clinton cleaned Bob Dole's grumpy clock.
I know your analysis isn't based upon or keyed to public opinion polling, Dafydd, but rather on underlying events and trends, and on a subjective analysis of them and of Obama (which, again, I very largely share with you). I agree with you that it's essentially impossible that between now and Election Day 2012, Obama could achieve any significant and substantive success, especially on domestic and economic issues. But he's never relied on a record of demonstrated success before — because, of course, he has had none to demonstrate — and despite that, he nevertheless managed to smash GOP opponents in 2004 and 2008.
All that's required for him to repeat that performance is for the Democratic base (somewhere between roughly 30 and 40 million voters) to turn out, plus about another 25 million independents or cross-overs. He doesn't need the totals he got in 2008; he'd be perfectly happy to win Virginia and Florida again in absolute squeakers.
I like the GOP nominee's chances, whoever he is. But it's still entirely possible to screw this up, and it's not at all impossible to lose it without the GOP ticket screwing up. A year's a long time when considered in light of the Feiler Faster Thesis.
The above hissed in response by: Beldar at October 21, 2011 12:19 AM
The following hissed in response by: Beldar
I meant write, "to win Virginia and Florida again, even if this time both wins turn out to be absolute squeakers." Hell, as long as Obama can get to 270 electoral votes, he won't mind it even if he loses the national popular vote by a bigger margin than Bush did in 2000.
The above hissed in response by: Beldar at October 21, 2011 12:25 AM
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
Obama won't win either state. It was a fluke that he won them in 2008, part of that "perfect storm" I mentioned.
Post World War II, Virginia has only gone Democratic on two occasions: in 1948 for Truman against Dewey, and in 1964 for Johnson against Goldwater. Florida is less hard-core GOP, but it went for the Republican 11 out of 15 elections since the war. Both states are fairly Republican now, at least in presidential races.
Actually, I think it an even bigger shocker than Obama won Indiana (by a nose). Indiana has only once voted for a Democrat for POTUS since the war, in 1964. Frankly, I believe that the GOP nominee next year will win all the states Bush won in 2004, plus a number of other "leaners."
My thesis is based primarily on the fact that Obama, unlike Clinton, simply cannot bring himself to triangulate. Where Clinton was a pragmatist primarily interested in his own reelection, President B.O. is a doctrinaire Progressivist who would sooner go down in flames than give aid and comfort to the GOP. Ergo, Clinton could win reelection, but Obama almost certainly cannot.
In any event, my analysis is that, by November 2012, Obama will be mired in the low thirties -- far below either Bush-43 in 2004 or Bill Clinton in 1996. I have even predicted (nearly two years ago!) that if Obama is looking at numbers in the low-mid thirties in late July, 2012, then Barack H. Obama may very well withdraw from the race. He would couch it as a victory speech:
I have accomplished all that I came to Washington to do. My work here is finished. I can no longer be constrained and tethered to a single nation... I'm a citizen of the world! And I have accepted a promotion to Secretary General of the United Nations. So I hereby announce that I am not running for reelection [blah yak blah for 130 minutes].
But we'll see.
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at October 21, 2011 2:32 AM
The following hissed in response by: LarryD
Obama is suffering the consequences of his policies. Since so many of them are the policies of the left, they must either face the fact that their policies are junk, or engage in psychological denial (a run of bad luck, Karl Roves' Sith Mind Control, what have you).
Obama has lost the swing voters, the Republicans are looking forward to throwing the Democrats out of the WH and the Senate, and the Democrats are dispirited. The elections still a year away yet, but still, the odds are Obama will suffer even more "bad luck" in the mean time.
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