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Doubling Down on America

September 28th, 2009 by Jim May · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

With the tide steadily turning against Obamacare, I am reminded of why electing Obama was certainly risky for this country… but may yet work out far better for American than would have a McCain presidency.

Yes, the policies Obama wants to pass are likely worse than what McCain would have done (though certainly not the gaping differences that many conservatives would have us believe). The tradeoff involved with the risk of such policies being passed, however, is that even if you grant that McCain’s less socialistic version of health-care reform (for example) would have done less damage in the short term than Obama’s, McCain’s would likely have passed.

It would have been sufficiently watered-down to avoid generating much of any reaction; the moderate conservatives would be useless as any sort of check on things, because it’s “their guy”.  And what serious Leftist would oppose a Republican doing their work for them, even if it isn’t moving as fast as they’d like?  Moreover, McCain’s statist policies would have helped add to the ossified dead weight of entitlements that weigh this country down, as did Bush with Medicare Part D.

Electing McCain would have worked as the political equivalent of the bailouts: deferring risk now, at the expense of greater risk later.  What mandate Obama received in 2008 is nothing compared to the bottled-up landslide we’d have seen in 2012 after four more years of Republican rule.

But since it’s Obama, the story is completely different. Where McCain would have kept the water muddied, Obama clarifies it. Where McCain would have maintained the status quo of ordinary partisanship, Obama’s explicit Leftism has energized the Left’s actual opposition: not conservatives per se, but Americans — individuals asserting a modicum of moral sovereignty. Obama clarifies and energizes a truly *American* opposition, one defined along the correct lines of individualism versus collectivism, instead of the meaningless one of left vs. right.

This is why the Obama presidency, despite its clearly greater downside risk compared to McCain in the policies that he seeks to implement, nonetheless has an upside for which there was no chance with McCain: that little or nothing gets done during his administration, the best possible political outcome available for this four year term.

Obama is playing for much more than McCain would have — but unlike McCain, Obama stands to lose it *all*.

And that’s the nub of it right there.   For the supporters of freedom, voting for Obama was an act of doubling down on America — a willingness to risk electing the most statist candidate yet seen in this country, to bet on the rise of a genuinely American opposition (as opposed to merely conservative), one strong enough to defeat him.

By contrast, a McCain vote amounted to nothing more than an “insurance bet“.  It’s the move you make when you expect to lose, and seek to cut your losses.

The bet is not yet won. However, as uncertain as I am for their long-term prospects (in particular the likelihood of their being eventually co-opted by conservatism), the Tea Parties have already exceeded my highest initial expectations, in terms of both duration, and in resisting co-option by the usual suspects on the Right (though these particular expectations were quite low). I and others remain cautiously optimistic.

8 Comments so far ↓

  • rob sama

    Well put Jim. I couldn’t agree more. The key is teh 2010 election, after which point, the Obama Presidency should be over.

  • Brad Harper

    I certainly don’t want to diffuse the much needed optimism or discredit the surprisingly persistent backlash, but I’m very skeptical that HR3200 won’t pass in its most virulent form.

    And while it’s entirely positive that a more prominent segment of the population seems to have opened their eyes a bit, I don’t think they present enough influence (nor are they fueled by the proper intellectual thrust) to deter our statist congress, which has given every indication of being hell-bent on passing this bill despite any impending threat to their seats.

    What’s a little voter backlash in comparison to the monumental feat of altruistic power-lust that’s currently on the table?

    It’s hard for me to see how 2010 nor 2012 matter much with regards to reversing the tremendous blow to freedom and standard of living that will be soundly established when/if HR3200 is passed.

    Doubling down *was* better than insurance, but I think best case is a push – except in this game the house still wins.

  • TW

    “For the supporters of freedom, voting for Obama was an act of doubling down on America — a willingness to risk electing the most statist candidate yet seen in this country, to bet on the rise of a genuinely American opposition (as opposed to merely conservative), one strong enough to defeat him.”

    Many things are wrong with this, but most practically, the chickens have already begun to come to roost in the Supreme Court, a disaster which we can’t undo perhaps for decades.

    If you vote for what you don’t want, you will get what you don’t want and often many times more.

  • Andrew Dalton

    TW –

    I didn’t vote for either candidate. It was thus assured that I would get what I didn’t want. But both candidates were unacceptable, period.

    The battles over the Supreme Court are overrated. Conservatives and liberals both accept the “deference to Congress” view that has allowed the welfare-regulatory state to expand steadily for the past century.

  • TW

    “I didn’t vote for either candidate. It was thus assured that I would get what I didn’t want. But both candidates were unacceptable, period.”

    That is a perfectly reasonable choice to make. There wasn’t an option you wanted, so you didn’t support anyone. You didn’t, in other words, vote against your beliefs.

    “The battles over the Supreme Court are overrated. ”

    Impossible. The Supreme Court is the entity which interprets our Constitution. A president’s appointees to SCOTUS are there for life. That sound you hear right now? It’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg coughing.

  • Andrew Dalton

    I never said that the Supreme Court’s power was overrated. I said that the battles over the Supreme Court are overrated. The reason is that they will be, for the foreseeable future, conceived in conventional left/right terms. And neither side is a friend of liberty.

    As an example, I remember that during the confirmation hearing for John Roberts, the Democrats were reassured by Roberts that he would view acts of Congress with a “presumption of constitutionality” (or something similarly phrased). This presumption is the consensus view that has allowed government power to expand nearly unchecked.

  • Jim May

    Many things are wrong with this, but most practically, the chickens have already begun to come to roost in the Supreme Court, a disaster which we can’t undo perhaps for decades.

    As Andrew notes above, the weakness here is the assumption that McCain would have made better choices in the matter — an argument that remains short on substantiation in my experience so far.

    But interestingly, I just found out today via HBL that the Supreme Court has granted certiorari on McDonald v. Chicago (08-1521), a gun case in Chicago which at first blush, is being taken as the next step from Heller: answering the question of whether the Second Amendment “incorporates” against the states via the fourteenth Amendment.

    The HBL poster, who is a lawyer, indicated that this case has potential for repairing some of the damage done to the protection of individual rights in America by such bad precedents as the Slaughterhouse cases.

    A comment from a Volokh Conspiracy post on this case says:

    This should be an exceedingly interesting case because judicial conservatives have traditionally loathed the incorporation doctrine. Thus, rather than engaging in maladroit arguments as to whether the right to bear arms is a fundamental right, a more consistent approach might be to argue that the slaughterhouse cases should be overturned and that the right to bear arms should be viewed as a privilege and immunity granted to citizens of the United States.

    So TW, it will be interesting to see how this case plays out in regards to your view on this.

  • TW

    “As Andrew notes above, the weakness here is the assumption that McCain would have made better choices in the matter [. . .]”

    Not at all. I was not arguing in favor of having voted for McCain, but against voting for Obama. Your argument seemed to be that Obama was probably the worse candidate, so vote for him.

    Whether McCain would have appointed better justices to SCOTUS or not is debatable but not at issue. We know that Obama did and will appoint justices who will damage freedom and we’ll be stuck with those appointments and their attendant disastrous consequences for decades.

    We also know that Obama has appointed an FCC general counsel who lauds Hugo Chavez’s takover of the media in Venezuela, and is working on a dismantling of free speech here.

    We also know that Obama will passively let Iran go nuclear. I laugh every time I hear the hot air from the administration, the “stern warnings” after each missile test. Then I remember that soon I may not be laughing.

    In other words, he will make policy decisions that will have consequences that we very well might find ourselves unable to undo.

    “So TW, it will be interesting to see how this case plays out in regards to your view on this.”

    I agree.