Monday, February 8, 2010

Mr. Obama: What Can Brown do for You?

"Ted Kennedy's Karmatic Comeuppance". In a perfect world, that's what headlines across America would have said the day after Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts. Alas, most headlines tended to side with some sort of spin on old revolutionary themes, such as "The Scott Heard Round the World" or "The Boston Massacre." No matter what you call it, there is no questioning the magnitude of a Republican victory in such a historically and culturally left-leaning locale. Watching Scott Brown get elected to a Massachusetts Senate seat is like watching Rosie O'Donnell get elected President of Weight Watchers. This is certainly not the change Barack Obama hoped for.

Nevertheless, Scott Brown's victory could be the best thing that ever happened to Barack Obama. Just as Bill Clinton now gets credit for Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" (balanced budget, lower taxes, welfare reform) Scott Brown could be just what Barack Obama needs to save himself from...himself. So, Mr. Obama, what can Brown do for you?

Lesson #1: Time to Ditch Obama Care. Scott Brown's victory shows that America wants Obamacare as much as a person with bowel incontinence wants a pet tarantula. ( Sorry, obscure metaphors and Rose O'Donnell jokes are all I have to offer this world). Our healthcare system is broken, nobody denies that. But nobody in their right mind thinks that the solution to government-induced problems is more government involvement. Would anybody struggling with their car insurance company expect the DMV to make it better?

Obama's healthcare solutions show that he views public policy like a large McDonalds, where you can order whatever you want and make the guy behind you in line pay for it. Obamacare certainly started out with the best of intentions but what he ended up with was a trillion-dollar boondoggle wrought with union favoritism, and special interest buyouts. Comparing the fabrication of Obamacare to the making of sausage is an insult to sausage everywhere. What Obama ended up with was a pork-filled tube of government-largesse that not even the most obese progressive could swallow.

So what should Obama do? Cut that sausage into the pieces America can stomach. Focus on pre-existing conditions, making insurance cheaper (by allowing it to be purchased across state lines) and include tort reform to bring down the cost of healthcare.

Lesson #3: Rhetoric Makes for a Great Candidate but a Lousy President. President Obama loves to point out that words matter. After all, it was words (certainly not experience) that got him elected, right? But you know what matters even more than words? Action. Results. Success. While President Obama loves to attack the failed ideas of the past eight years, he so often neglects that Democrats ruled congress for two of those years. Blaming all of the problems he inherited on Bush may have worked for the first few months, but Democrats have been calling the shots in Washington for three years now and what do they have to show for it? We have the worst unemployment rate in decades and record deficits that will burden our country for generations.

For all his talk of bipartisanship, President Obama has done nothing conciliatory. He accuses Republicans of cow-towing to special interests while at the same time he is allowing insurance companies and unions to build his healthcare bill. He accuses Republicans of fiscal recklessness while at the same time proposing the largest budget in American history. He accuses Republicans of unprecedented obstructionism when he holds a filibuster proof majority. It is difficult to set a reconciliatory tone in Washington, Mr. Obama, when you spend most of your time accusing Republicans of, well, acting like Democrats.

Lesson #3: The Tea Party- It's ALIVE!. Considering Scott Brown was the first Republican elected to a Massachusetts Senate seat in a generation, you would think it would be worth mentioning this convenient fact in his victory speech. Alas, Scott Brown droned on and on about the importance of his victory without once mentioning the Republican party. The Republican Party, as an ideology, is dead. Stating you are a Republican no longer means you are a social and fiscal conservative. The meaning of Republican has become so muddied by the reckless spending of the Bush administration that it no longer has any actionable power or authority. President Obama needs to realize that the Republican party is beginning to function only as the administrative and organizational arm for the Tea Party.

Mrs. Pelosi's arrogant, down-her-nose sneering at the Tea Party movement notwithstanding, Scott brown proves that the movement has real power and real force. Far from being an Astroturf movement, the Tea Party is true grass roots with people of all shapes and sizes uniting around conservative principles. What distinguishes this from conservative movements of the past is the willingness of the Tea party to act out. Conservative activism used to be a complete oxymoron. Protests and petitions used to be the exclusive domain of people on the left. Conservatives were too busy, you know, working. However, enough people are concerned about the direction President Obama is taking this country that they were able to take Ted Kennedy's seat. As much as you may despise them, you can't ignore the termites when the roof caves in.

How bad is President Obama? Less than a year into office his actions have given rise to the fastest swing in political pendulum history. Conservatives have always outnumbered liberals 2-1, yet we are seeing in the Tea Party movement the silent majority finally come to life.

If President Obama wishes to have any success, he and the other Democratic leaders of congress, need to recognize the legitimate force of the Tea Party movement. This is no longer about getting more Republicans into congress than Democrats. This is no longer a political football game where we spend all our time pushing the ball back and forth along strict party lines. With the defeat of Republican Dede Scozzafava in upstate New York a few months ago, the Tea Party movement proved it is more content taking a risk on an unelectable conservative over an electable liberal. Because candidates will need the endorsement of the Tea Party masses in order to win election in this current political climate, you are more likely to have true conservatives, regardless of party, headed to Washington. If Barack Obama wishes to salvage his Presidency, and in essence, the country, he has to pivot to the center.

Unfortunately for Democrats, Obama's presidential victory was more like the Japanese victory in Pearl Harbor: momentous, short lived and serving only to wake the sleeping conservative giant. Scott Brown's election is the moment where Barack Obama needs to decide if he is going to be a permanent political force, or a short- lived kamikaze.