Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bobo in the Bubble

David Brooks praises the president for his pragmatism but cautions him against being arrogant.

The country is now split on Obama, because he is temperate, thoughtful and pragmatic, but his policies are almost all unpopular. If you aggregate the last seven polls on health care reform, 41 percent support it and 51 percent oppose.

Many Democrats, as always, are caught in their insular liberal information loop. They think the polls are bad simply because the economy is bad. They tell each other health care is unpopular because the people aren’t sophisticated enough to understand it. Some believe they can still pass health care even if their candidate, Martha Coakley, loses the Senate race in Massachusetts on Tuesday.

That, of course, would be political suicide. It would be the act of a party so arrogant, elitist and contemptuous of popular wisdom that it would not deserve to govern. Marie Antoinette would applaud, but voters would rage.

I’m not sure how having 59 senators and a majority of the House vote for healthcare is arrogant and elitist; these people, it would seem, know what the voters they represent want, and if there was a true groundswell of informed opinion against the president’s agenda, we would not be on the brink of passing the bill. Second, Mr. Brooks seems to forget that the president has been battling an opposition that has yet to make a sensible contribution to the discourse since November 2008, if not longer, led by people who get up every morning and dedicate their lives and energies to finding some way of insuring that the president and his administration fails. They’ve aligned themselves with a loathsome and ill-informed collection of paranoid fearmongers who consider a radio talk show host and a former governor who quit her job to capitalize on the fame she received because of the cynical political calculations of a presidential candidate to be their leaders. Mr. Brooks seems blissfully unaware of this phenomenon.

The American people are not always right, but their basic sense of equilibrium is worthy of the profoundest respect. President Obama has shown himself to be a fine administrator, but he erred in trying to make himself the irreplaceable man in nearly ever sphere of public life. He erred in not sensing that even a pragmatic government could seem imperious and alarming.

I really don’t understand how Mr. Brooks can praise the president for not being an ideologue and open to all points of view, then accuse him of being arrogant. And after eight years of Bush and Cheney plus the six years before that of Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, to accuse the Obama administration of suddenly seeming “imperious and alarming” makes you wonder what color the sky is inside his little bubble.