Watching Obama move through ritual and choreographed set pieces yesterday, one couldn’t help but imagine it had things gone otherwise in November. That mercy alone validates another 4 years of tactical placeholding.
That’s not to say Obama’s post-November actions reek of the same political ineptitude and disengagement that marked his tepid first term. He’s beginning to show glimmers that he finally grasps his role is inherently political. That it is OK to win and be seen winning. His decision to spin off his electoral database/network into a 501(c)(4) for future political deployment is likewise encouraging. Could Goldilocks be a thing of the past?
Yet it’s still remarkable how feeble these steps are after the last 12 (30) years. Democratic triumphalism now is particularly disturbing. The underlying political incompetence of the Democratic party has not changed. Assuming temporary Movement narrative disarray will be permanent just an example. More damning, the sophomoric gloating of a permanent future majority on birthrates alone is utterly dubious.
Malthusian extrapolation of future generations based on 2012 demographic voting blocks is simply not professionally defensible. True, Republicans debate whether Obama represents a tectonic shift or a personality-led (read ‘black’ but not on their powerpoint slides) phenomenon. But to assume blithely that Latinos, etc. will bestow offspring genetically committed to Democrats is to squat on sand. Beyond a turnout machine, what have the Democrats or Obama really built?
Sadly, not much. People too young actually to remember Reagan tell us Obama was ‘Reagan-esque’. Albeit of the so-called progressive bent. Those ‘progressive’ cable bloviators who do remember Reagan utter banal delusions that we should return to the Reagan era’s collegiately and bi-partisanship. That Reagan was a kindly grandfather who just had a fixation about the Soviets. Ignoring Iran-Contra, the Sandanistas, Bork, Zero Option and SDI.
All nonsense. First, Reagan’s election (and inaugural addresses) culminated the Movement’s first massive co-opting of the Republican Party. Not the converse like Obama. Aside from shared sentiment, there is little to suggest the Democratic Party as an institution is configured for such a political campaign.
Second, Obama has it backward. The Movement was already solidly entrenched, coordinated and linked by infrastructure before Reagan’s election. The Movement hit the ground running. For example, when Heritage published ‘Mandate for Leadership’, Morton Blackwell and many others had already placed key personnel on the Hill and provided troops to sweep into the Executive Branch. Case in point? Gary Bauer, who toiled over at the Education Department at an obscure junior level, believe it or not. And so on across the Administration.
Finally, the Movement as a coherent (if amorphous) collection of ideological strands was already a real local and state presence before Reagan won in 1980. The Movement’s strands may have bickered internally but all sure as hell knew the enemy, and all were dedicated to its destruction. And when they began in the 1970s, they were willing to work for a future triumph knowing it might be far off.
The differences with the Democratic Party 2013 or Obama’s GOTV apparatus clear. MSNBC, Twitter, etc. might compress the time required for replicating the Movement’s meme distribution ala Reagan. But cadre development and building institutions take time regardless. Certainly more than the year (year and a half?) available to Obama before 2016 overshadows all.
Obama’s campaign database might be a useful first step in that direction. A long term political realignment requires a more robust infrastructure intellectually and physically than one election’s volunteer mobilization and GOTV.
To seek a Reagan-like political alignment, Obama (note not the Democratic Party) would be bizarrely trying to do on the fly, upside down. It’s a shame because we urged the Democratic Party and ‘progressives’ to start this effort since 2005. Had that happened, much that happened yesterday would have profound and real impact. Today it’s just, well, hope.
Can Obama build a durable political transformation now, when he is already a lame duck walking? It’ll be interesting to watch a man so utterly disdainful of political engagement try.
Still, how pleasant to write this instead of witnessing November’s alternative lurching to life.