An Obama Presidency
Given Barack Obama’s formidable lead in the polls, many conservatives are resigning themselves to an Obama presidency. It’s a bit odd that, in a presidential race that can only be described as “unpredictable,” so many are convinced that polls taken three weeks before the election are set in stone, rock solid reliable indicators of public opinion, but many people have a near superstitious reverence for polls. (For myself, I think polls are valuable snapshots of where the race is—but they’re only snapshots. They have little predictive value). Right-wingers are looking ahead and envisioning an Obama presidency.
And their vision is a bit…apocalyptic. Blogger Sublog, writing at Ace of Spades HQ, offers his vision of an Obama Administration. It’s depressing—he sees at least two left-liberal Supreme Court Justices, a reestablishment of the Fairness Doctrine, higher taxes and spending, and endless investigations into George Bush’s “crimes.” He admittedly goes a bit far when he envisions the Democrats shredding the Constitution—abolishing the Electoral College and repealing the 22nd Amendment (the one setting presidential term limits).
The Constitution stuff is pretty wild speculation, but I think it’s a safe bet that most conservatives would agree with the rest. Your average conservative sees Obama as the second coming of George McGovern, or even worse—an extreme, left wing quasi-socialist.
I believe that candidates are never as good as you think they’ll be—and never as bad either. If, by some miracle, Sarah Palin was sworn in as president next January, conservatives would be a bit disappointed by her performance. And if somehow Nancy Pelosi became president (don’t laugh—it could happen) she wouldn’t be quite as dreadful as Republicans expect.
There is a simple reason for that—politicians have to be elected again. Democrats would love to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine—but they wouldn’t want to be accused of stifling free speech. Obama would love to raise the top income tax rate to ninety percent—but doesn’t want to be accused of socialism. Politics is played between the forty yard lines in this country, and that ensures that extremists of any kind won’t be elected to any office higher than Congressman.
(Sometimes this concern for next cycle’s election has disastrous results. Some congressmen noticed Fannie and Freddie dangerous loan practices—but didn’t act because they feared that they would be accusing of standing in the way of the “American Dream” of owning a house, and thus losing reelection).
So Obama won’t do anything too extreme—I very much doubt that Obama would try reestablishing the Fairness Doctrine, and any Constitution-tampering would be out of the question. At this point, Obama would probably fear the political consequences of withdrawing from a relatively safe Iraq, and has said Afghanistan is the central front of the war on terror, so no withdrawal there. His plan for Guantanamo Bay is very similar that of McCain’s.
On immigration, he and McCain more or less agree. Actually, we would probably be more likely to see comprehensive immigration reform (read: amnesty) under McCain that Obama—both support it, but McCain cares about the issue.
It’s doubtful that we’ll see too many investigations, either. The Republican Congress spent the entire decade of the nineties investigating Bill Clinton, and had him cold—but let him slip away and ended up looking stupid. As if Obama was to start investigating a former president who is probably not guilty, his favorable ratings would start to drop very quickly.
On the topic of healthcare, the two candidates are radically different, at least in theory. Obama claims to want to insure universal healthcare. McCain wants a free market solution. Neither will happen. Even with a filibuster proof Senate, an Obama would be vulnerable to public opinion, and anything close to nationalized healthcare would mobilize the entire conservative movement. The response to the McCain-Kennedy immigration plan last year was impressive—it would nothing compared to the outrage over nationalized healthcare.
Taxes: Obama would raise them, a lot, and McCain would lower them. McCain’s ability to lower taxes would, in practice, be rather difficult, but he wouldn’t raise them. Obama wouldn’t have any trouble raising taxes, though he wouldn’t raise them anywhere near as much as conservatives fear. (Again, he can’t do anything too extreme is he wants to win reelection).
On the spending issue, Obama would speedily increase the federal budget, thought he will not be able to enact all the programs he says he will. McCain, in all likelihood, would raise the federal budget, only a bit slower. I very much doubt that either candidate has the ability to balance the budget, as both promise to do.
It is, perhaps, on the issue of abortion that an Obama presidency would be most disastrous. Obama would appoint certainly one, and perhaps two or even three, pro-abortion justices. These justices would alter the nature of the Supreme Court for decades, and set the pro-life movement back enormously.
So Obama would be a disaster on taxes, spending, and abortion, and would be bad, but acceptable on the war (though ironically, it is in part due to McCain’s influence that we are winning in Iraq), immigration (at least if my estimate of Obama’s attitude towards immigration is correct), and healthcare.
An Obama presidency would be bad—but conservatives could live with it. We aren’t getting George McGovern—Obama is closer to Bill Clinton. There is no need to despair.