EDITORIAL: Obama threatened by Tea Party

White House frets about coming Republican majority

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Reality won a rare victory against the White House on Sunday when President Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, admitted that the November 2010 congressional elections will be a tough time for Democrats. “There’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

The sea change in the public mood has come about because the ruling party’s policies are deeply unpopular. Democrats and willing media outlets are promoting the idea that an “anti-incumbent” mood has seized the public, but this is not true. Incumbents aren’t the problem; Americans are objecting to the hard-left policies, programs and legislation pushed by the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress. Analysts peddled the same generic “anti-incumbent” line to explain Democratic defeats in the 1994 midterm election until they noticed that not a single Republican in Congress had lost a seat. A “throw the bums out” election may target a very specific group of bums.

The Tea Party movement has crystallized public discontent. It arose as a genuine grass-roots citizens protest, of the type that Obama supporters extolled ad nauseam in 2008 until their grass roots withered. Democratic operatives denounced Tea Party adherents as bitter, racist, white-trash losers, the kind of people who, as then-candidate Barack Obama said in 2008, “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” This exercise in racial profiling was short-circuited by an April 2010 New York Times poll that showed Tea Partiers tend to be better educated and more affluent than the population as a whole. Liberals had to come to grips with the fact that those who opposed their “enlightened rule” were not just dimwitted red-state rubes.

Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul, a Tea Party stalwart, argued last weekend that the movement’s issues reflect the concerns of mainstream America. “To those who want to paint us as extremists,” he said, “I defy them to go out and poll those questions.” Many surveys back up the view that liberals in Washington are the ones who are out of touch with the country. A June 2010 Gallup poll showed that 42 percent of Americans described themselves as conservatives, up five points from 2008, against 20 percent who describe themselves as liberals, down two points from 2008. A July 2010 Gallup poll found that levels of patriotism are generally on the rise in America but are declining among liberals and Democrats. The latest poll by Democracy Corps, the outfit run by longtime Democratic advisers James Carville and Stan Greenberg, found that 55 percent of likely voters thought the word “socialist” described Mr. Obama either “well” or “very well.”

Polls asking in what direction the country is heading show large and increasing majorities saying America is on the wrong course. Congressional job approval is at record lows, and the president’s approval ratings are on average below 50 percent and trending downward. Republican voters are much more motivated and enthusiastic than their Democratic counterparts, and historically large gaps are opening on the generic ballots asking party preferences for the November 2010 vote. Democrats are so afraid of their constituents that they are avoiding town-hall-style meetings this summer in favor of invitation-only gatherings where they will not be called on to justify their support for policies that are wrecking the country.

Rarely if ever in American history has a government been so at odds with the views of mainstream voters. It has become clear that the current crowd in Washington will not serve as trustworthy stewards of the hopes and aspirations of the majority of Americans. This government has saddled us with debt, fueled wild expansion of government power, increased Washington’s interference in everyone’s daily lives and made the country weaker as the world becomes more dangerous. It’s no wonder the people are growing increasingly tired of change wrought by the O Force. As Mr. Gibbs said, there’s no doubt about that.

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