Posted By Daniel Greenfield On October 22, 2013 @ 12:56 am
Obama does many things. He prevaricates, manipulates, defrauds, abuses and usurps. But one thing that he does not do is compromise.
Any strategy built on forcing Obama to compromise is inherently flawed. He may occasionally throw Republicans a tiny bone to make them feel better about giving in, but only as long as his is the only plate with meat on it.
Obama never compromises because he has never really lost. He has been insulated from defeat by his fanaticism, his arrogance and his media… and by Republican incompetence.
Obama can only be beaten on his own terms. He can’t be beaten legislatively or judicially as long as he wields executive powers whose limits he refuses to accept. If Congress passes something, he can and will choose to ignore it. If the Supreme Court strikes something down, he will do it anyway.
That is why Justice Roberts, like so many other conservatives, blinked in a confrontation with Obama and chose to preserve the system while legalizing ObamaCare, rather than see ObamaCare implemented anyway while the system of checks and balances was trashed.
The Roberts mistake is the same one that Congressional Republicans have made in their games of chicken with Obama. They have chosen to preserve the system, whether it’s the political system, the economic system or any other part of the status quo, over defeating Obama.
In a game of chicken with a man who cares nothing for the status quo that impulse to conserve has become their fatal weakness. They may gamble, but they never gamble everything because they see themselves as custodians of a political system, a legal traditional and a national heritage.
Obama, who has no concern or use for any of those things, always comes to the table prepared to gamble everything. And it is hard to beat a man at a political game within a system of rules when he cares nothing for those rules.
There is only one way to beat Obama and that is on his own terms.
Obama does not see his power in legal terms. The Constitutional limits on his power mean nothing to him. Instead he sees his right to rule in terms of popular will. He isn’t afraid of being on the wrong side of the law, but he is afraid of his agenda being stranded on the wrong side of public opinion.
Unlike Clinton, he reacts less to polls believing correctly that his media allies can help him weather temporary unpopularity. As long as he is moving forward, then he is in control. What he fears is losing that momentum. He fears a Newt Gingrich who will sideline his agenda with a counter-agenda.
The rise of the Tea Party panicked Obama because suddenly there were agendas in the public eye that were not his. He was forced to pivot, briefly, to the deficit. He was forced, uncomfortably, to talk about responsible spending.
The ObamaCare steamroller rolled on, but it was now doomed to be unpopular. The dedicated opposition had crippled it by making it suspect. But it was less the damage to ObamaCare that worried him than the fear of losing the ability to set the public agenda. Without that power, he would have become completely impotent.
But the natural caution of the Republican Party reasserted itself and the lessons of the Tea Party uprising were forgotten. And those lessons were simple.
Obama can only be beaten in the popular arena. In his mind, he derives his power from the bully pulpit. He is a creature of the media age and popularity is his only law and the only verdict that he will accept.
The Republican Party is still playing this game by Washington rules while Obama is playing it by Chicago rules where the only rule is to do whatever you can get away with for as long as the people let you.
Obama isn’t just challenging a few laws, he is challenging whether the government has any hard limits that can’t be overcome by asserting popular will or the force of history. And the Republican Party is not only unable to answer his challenge, but is unable to even understand that it is being made.
The Tea Party instinctively understood Obama’s uncompromising political grammar. As do men like Ted Cruz. While the Republican Party looks for a compromise, they understand that it’s impossible.
This is a test of wills. Agendas are asserted. Law doesn’t matter. Passion does.
Most people don’t understand the inner workings of government. What they know is that they are unhappy with the state of the country and looking for someone to fight for a better life for them.
Instead of stepping up to the challenge, the Republican Party has become consumed with the illusory center. It is afraid of alienating anyone and so it appeals to no one. It engages in half-measures that do more damage than doing nothing would. It commits halfway to every policy and is hated by everyone.
The modern Tea Party, like the classical one, was fed by a sense of desperation from a middle class that sensed its property, its prosperity and its future slipping away under the boot of government. It went out prepared to gamble everything. Some of its gambles were foolish, but they were still less foolish than hoping that letting the responsible parties assemble in a room and work it all out was the answer.
The dirty little secret of the Republican Party is that no one wants to run it or take responsibility for it. Everyone is just biding their time until the next election and the one after that. They are waiting for the Post-Obama era when the burden of opposition will be lifted from their shoulders and they will be able to go back to business as usual.
That complacency is at the heart of everything that is wrong with the Republican Party. It is why it is losing. It is why it deserves to lose.
Obama can only be beaten with sustained opposition. Innate to his plans is the assumption that his enemies will give up and let him have his victory. When they don’t, he begins making mistakes.
The ObamaCare website went live in a disastrous state because he was too afraid of postponing it and letting Republicans smell weakness. The ObamaCare exchanges are more of a disaster than they had to be because dedicated conservatives never stopped challenging and questioning the law. And both of those mistakes may yet prove fatal.
These battles weren’t legislative. They were clashes of will and nerve. Their sustained effect was to make ObamaCare controversial and to make Obama paranoid about its image. The only thing Obama truly cares about is his popularity. It is the one thing he will defend at all costs. The Tea Party has done a good job of wearing down ObamaCare, but its real triumph will come if it succeeds in stealing enough momentum from Obama to make its own agenda into a national topic.
It did that briefly with the national debt. If it can do it again and in a bigger way, if it can win a popular mandate for its own issues, then it can steal Obama’s only real source of power and beat him for good.