WASHINGTON — “I am not an ideologue,” protested President Obama at a gathering with Republican House members last week. Perhaps, but he does have a tenacious commitment to a set of political convictions.
Compare his 2010 State of the Union to his first address to Congress a year earlier. The consistency is remarkable. In 2009, after passing a $787 billion (now $862 billion) stimulus package, the largest spending bill in galactic history, he unveiled a manifesto for fundamentally restructuring the commanding heights of American society — health care, education and energy.
A year later, after stunning Democratic setbacks in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, Obama gave a stay-the-course State of the Union address (a) pledging not to walk away from health care reform, (b) seeking to turn college education increasingly into a federal entitlement, and (c) asking again for cap-and-trade energy legislation. Plus, of course, another stimulus package, this time renamed a “jobs bill.”
This being a democracy, don’t the Democrats see that clinging to this agenda will march them over a cliff? Don’t they understand Massachusetts?
Well, they understand it through a prism of two cherished axioms: (1) The people are stupid and (2) Republicans are bad. Result? The dim, led by the malicious, vote incorrectly.
Liberal expressions of disdain for the intelligence and emotional maturity of the electorate have been, post-Massachusetts, remarkably unguarded. New York Times columnist Charles Blow chided Obama for not understanding the necessity of speaking “in the plain words of plain folks,” because the people are “suspicious of complexity.” Counseled Blow: “The next time he gives a speech, someone should tap him on the ankle and say, ‘Mr. President, we’re down here.’”
A Time magazine blogger was even more blunt about the ankle-dwelling mob, explaining that we are “a nation of dodos” that is “too dumb to thrive.”
Obama joined the parade in the State of the Union address when, with supercilious modesty, he chided himself “for not explaining it (health care) more clearly to the American people.” The subject, he noted, was “complex.” The subject, it might also be noted, was one to which the master of complexity had devoted 29 speeches. Perhaps he did not speak slowly enough.