Carterism revisited, Thatcherism needed
Obama’s personal approval ratings remain mysteriously buoyant, even as the public turns away from him on every issue. Not much in the way of tangible success is expected from this President, because his moral argument against the old, free, energetic America has been accepted. ”Fairness” is more important than enterprise. The modern American voter can digest Carter-style malaise, provided it has been spread thin enough.
That’s the trick, really. The costs of Carterism – the signs of his failure – were too obvious, too annoying. Obamanomics is more subtle. Americans are paying far too much for gas these days, but in the Carter years you couldn’t get gas. Obama’s foreign policy is a shambles, but we’re not tuning in to nightly images of blindfolded diplomats being hauled through screaming crowds by terrorists. Food inflation 2013-style means the price on the package remains the same, but there’s less food inside. The tax bite has been successfully hidden from much of the populace – they pay far more in hidden taxes and regulatory costs than they realize. Job-killing government policies have not been placed at the crime scene, and many of the jobs vanished without leaving corpses behind. How much of the general public truly understands the scale of the workforce decline we have suffered under Obama? How many of them realize he’s literally returned us to Jimmy Carter’s workforce?
Leftist policies are all about concentrated benefits and diffuse costs. The benefits are easy to see, easy to trace back to the benevolent State. The costs are spread thin, ideally hidden behind layers of indirect taxation and regulation that conscript private-sector corporations as the State’s assistant tax collectors and enforcers. Obama perfected this art, to the point where he can still claim nothing bad is really his fault, and one more “pivot to job creation” should unleash that “recovery” we’re always “poised” to enjoy. Wouldn’t Jimmy Carter have loved to be able to blame his failures on his predecessors!
We need a good stiff dose of Thatcherism to penetrate these layers of obfuscation, and challenge the moral legitimacy of an agenda that has already failed by every practical measure. Today’s Republicans are often nervous about deploying moral and emotional arguments, either because they think it’s beneath them, or they’re afraid it will blow up in their faces. But such arguments have to be made, because there we find what Sun Tzu would have called the “fatal terrain” of the Left: the ground they cannot afford to lose. They can survive charges that their plans are not working, especially since they get a lot of help from the media, but they can’t survive the charge that their plans are wrong. Voters respond to passion and moral certainty… and also notice their absence.
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