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KUHNER: The one-term president
Obama will defend his leftist agenda until defeated in 2012
President Obama has lost more than the midterm election. He has lost his moral and political legitimacy. On Tuesday, voters repudiated Mr. Obama's socialist policies. The Democrats lost the House of Representatives in a
historic landslide. The GOP picked up at least 60 seats. In the Senate, the Democratic majority has been substantially reduced. The liberal governing agenda is dead.
Mr. Obama misread his 2008 electoral mandate. The president embarked upon erecting a European entitlement state. Rather than fixing the economy, he chose the path of personal glory - and hubris: cementing his reputation as the most radical president in U.S. history.
Mr. Obama's presidency is a watershed. He is a revolutionary who has openly called for transformative change. And the history books will show that during the first few years of his administration, he - at least temporarily - accomplished it.
His $814 billion stimulus was a radical experiment in neo-Keynesianism. The federal government essentially has nationalized the auto sector, the insurance industry, the banking system and the student loan business. Financial regulatory reform has enshrined "too big to fail," making bailouts a permanent feature of the economy. The Environmental Protection Agency ruled that carbon is a "pollutant," paving the way for massive environmental regulations on industry and manufacturing. It achieves the seminal goal of "cap-and-trade" - reducing carbon emissions and driving up the costs of energy use - through the back door.
In addition, public spending accounts for 25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Mr. Obama's trillion-dollar budget deficits are burying America under a mountain of red ink. The national debt is approaching 100 percent of GDP - a level from which no nation can recover. We are on the verge of bankruptcy.
In short, Mr. Obama has left his progressive mark. Many liberals will look back upon the first half of his term as a kind of golden age - the culmination of New Deal-Great Society liberalism. The Democratic Party has been captured by post-1960s radicals and ideological fanatics.
However, in the face of a humiliating defeat, Democratic leaders are unable - and unwilling - to admit they need to change course. In Wednesday's news conference, Mr. Obama stubbornly insisted that his key decisions had been "tough" but "right." The White House spin is that voters were frustrated with the ailing economy and the slow pace of recovery. True - to some extent.
But what the electorate understands - and Mr. Obama does not - is that his policies have made things much worse. Stimulus spending not only failed to keep unemployment below 8 percent. It has been a massive boondoggle, a huge waste of taxpayer dollars. It has mortgaged the future of our children and led to skyrocketing deficits. The burdensome mandates of Obamacare, impending huge tax increases and the overregulation of the financial sector have frightened business and chased away investment capital. The private sector, the engine of growth and jobs, has been stifled by big-government liberalism. The results are increased unemployment, the specter of high inflation and the onset of economic stagnation.
The nation is losing hope. Mr. Obama inherited a recession and turned it into a depression. Once again, liberalism has been disastrous.
Yet Mr. Obama will not tack to the center - as Bill Clinton did in the wake of the 1994 Republican revolution. The comrade in chief is an ideologue who is determined to cement his legislative accomplishments. He will dig in his heels and repulse every GOP attempt to scale back his progressive-regulatory state. Along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he will defend his legacy at all costs. He will not allow Obamacare to be repealed - or even substantially modified. Spending will not be slashed. Runaway deficits will not be curtailed. Bailout nation will live on.
Hence, Mr. Obama is destined to be a one-term president. He knows this. And he doesn't care. As he told an interviewer early on in his term, he would rather be a "great one-term president" than a "mediocre two-term" president. By "great," Mr. Obama means one who imposes utopian socialism.
The great truth of liberalism - something Mr. Obama, Mr. Reid and Nancy Pelosi grasp all too well - is that politics can influence and shape culture. Liberalism fosters a culture of dependency and victimization. It champions state power as the ultimate source of human fulfillment. In essence, faith in government replaces faith in God.
The great truth of conservatism, on the other hand, is that culture matters more than politics. But this has made conservatives ultimately weak in confronting big government. The Republicans have vowed - and failed - to roll back every great expansion of the welfare state. The New Deal was preserved. The Great Society, although nibbled at the edges, remains intact. The question is: Can the resurgent Republicans finally do to Mr. Obama what they were unable to do to Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson?
Mr. Obama is betting no - and will stake his presidency on it. As a result, voters likely will have to finish in 2012 the task they have just begun: ending this historic assault on American institutions.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.
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