Organizing for Action, the grassroots website that supports Barack Obama shows the president in boxer stance-- fists up, head down -- suggesting, presumably, that he is ready to fight for his agenda. Maybe Obama hopes that by aping pugilist Vladimir Putin, he will acquire the Russian leader’s huge approval ratings. He’s wrong, but his envy would be understandable.
Putin, whose economy is tanking, and whose country is widely accused of treachery, is wildly popular. Barack Obama, whose country boasts one of the highest growth rates in the developed world, has just been thumped by voters, and is increasingly viewed as a failed president. Why this disconnect?
The answer is simple. President Obama and his fellow Democrats do not make their citizens feel good about themselves and their country. Putin does. Russians are bruised and humbled by the collapse of their empire. by annexing Crimea, and flexing his nation’s muscles, Putin has restored the country’s confidence and pride. Russians’ enthusiasm for their aggressive leader may wane as inflation mounts and goods become scarce. For the moment, though, they remind us that national pride is a fearsome force.
President Obama has never played patriot. His belligerence is reserved for his political opponents, not our enemies. He is not a leader who rallies the country; he is no Reagan or FDR. Obama doesn’t understand the passion of the immigrant who has succeeded in our country, as Marco Rubio does, or the soldier willing to die for Old Glory, like John McCain. This is not a matter of style.
Obama is critical of the U.S. – complaining about racism, inequality, divisiveness, greedy ambition, the “constraints” of our constitution, Congress, and apathetic voters. In 2008, he promised to change America. Most of us don’t want our country to change. Yes, we have problems -- our education system comes to mind – but we believe that the fundamentals are beyond reproach.
President Obama doesn’t approve of our fundamentals, which allow some people to do better than others. He doesn’t like our political system, which grants a voice to people with different opinions. He thinks that more central government is better government, whereas clearly the founders of this nation believed otherwise. President Obama would like everyone who does not share his recipe for a better America – federal mandates for wages, healthcare and the environment for instance – to sit down and shut up. He’s like a Supersized Chris Christie with a muffler.
Republicans have two short years to prove themselves. They must reject some demands, and focus on policies that will be popular – that will restore Americans’ pride and remind us what is exceptional about our country. What might those be?
The Keystone Pipeline is an obvious starting place. President Obama has been a reluctant passenger aboard our energy juggernaut. Most Americans may not even understand how profound and rich our energy revolution has been – because Mr. Obama and his partners in the environmental movement are hostile to oil and gas. He has not wanted to broadcast, for instance, how many jobs have been created because of the resurgence in oil and gas production. Earlier this year, Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute, wrote, “Overall U.S. employment has yet to return to its prerecession level, but the number of oil and gas jobs has grown 40 percent since then.”
Obama has not ballyhooed the extraordinary technology innovations – American-made – that have allowed the U.S. to become the world’s number one oil producer. He has not used our surging energy output as a geopolitical weapon because it is distasteful to him. This is stupid, and counter-productive. Most oil and gas producers in the U.S. are small companies – the sort that Mr. Obama used to champion.
Again, quoting Mills: “America’s hydrocarbon revolution and its associated job creation are almost entirely the result of drilling and production by more than 20,000 small and midsize businesses, not a handful of “Big Oil” companies. In fact, the typical firm in the oil and gas industry employs fewer than 15 people.”
We should be celebrating and taking full advantage of our achievements in oil and gas production, not pretending they do not exist. Permitting Keystone to move forward would signal a new approach.
Next, push for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit – a popular measure that rewards work. Instead of hammering productive Americans over their “unfair” advantages, and making the unemployed bitter about how the deck is stacked against them - let’s help those willing to work. This is therapy for the nation. Both Paul Ryan and President Obama have proposed increases in this anti-poverty approach; the Brookings Institute claims, “In 2012, the EITC pulled 6.5 million people out of poverty, including around 3.3 million children.” The squabble has been over how to pay for it. My advice – figure it out.
Next, pass some measures that would improve Obamacare. Ditch the 30-hour workweek and the medical devices tax; do not waste time sending the president a bill that repeals his signature law. The House has passed 40-plus repeal bills -- the very kind of showboating that the country rightly detests. Americans are not stupid; they understand the difference between good governance and pretense.
Get rid of ten unnecessary government programs – the kind that retiring Senator Tom Coburn has pilloried in his annual “Wastebook.” Absurd outlays – like the $371,000 study of women’s emotions upon seeing their dog (versus seeing their child) or the $804,000 spent creating “Kiddio: Food Fight,” a smartphone game meant to enable parents who want their kids to eat more veggies. The kind that totaled $25 billion in this year’s (final) edition. Keep a scorecard. At the end of each year, announce what programs have been ditched, and how much taxpayers saved. Since most of us are pessimistic about our government, this might brighten the mood.
Finally, pass some small bills that begin to make our immigration system better serve the nation. Not every bill has to be a mammoth overarching reform measure. Obvious problems – like the difficulty faced by highly educated foreigners who would prefer to stay in this country – can be fixed without a gigantic battle.
Republicans need to boost the morale of the nation. This is doable, and comes more naturally to the GOP than to Democrats, who tend to be a sour lot. Picture Hillary Clinton as homecoming queen and you’ll get the point.
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