How Obama fooled 'moderate' voters
The independent voters that have swung against Obama since the election are the same voters that swung against Clinton. The are largely made up of the Perot deficit hawks who also swung against Republicans in 2006.
Barack Obama came into office championing change, and he apparently assumed that if Americans voted for him, it was because they wanted the future to be different from what went before. Actually, what they wanted was a future much like the not-so-distant past -- before the financial crisis, before the recession, before the Iraq war, before the most unpopular president since the invention of polling.
If voters had wanted a sharp ideological shift, they could have voted for Democratic candidates more identified with Great Society-style government -- Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or even Dennis Kucinich. Obama got the early endorsement of Ted Kennedy, but like Bill Clinton before him, he won because he distanced himself from Kennedy-style liberalism. His promise of change was eloquent enough to motivate the left wing of his party but vague enough to make him acceptable to people in the middle.
Among independents, Obama beat John McCain by an 8-point margin. The reason John Kerry lost and Obama won, as Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen has noted, was not liberal voters: They voted for both in the same proportion. The difference was that while Kerry had a 9-point edge over his Republican opponent among moderates, Obama carried them by 21 points. Obama also did significantly better among conservatives than Kerry.
After the election, then-chairman of the Republican National Committee Mike Duncan noted that the Democratic nominee supported offshore oil drilling, merit pay for teachers, a tax cut for 95 percent of Americans, more troops in Afghanistan and an end to wasteful federal earmarks. "Put simply," he said, "Barack Obama just ran the most successful moderate Republican presidential campaign since Dwight Eisenhower."
What they forgot is that the surest way to mobilize American political opposition, irrational as well as rational, is to enlarge the government's role in our lives. Liberals and conservatives disagree on when to distrust the government, but they share the same basic suspicion.
George W. Bush managed to infuriate the Left in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by pushing through the Patriot Act, engaging in warrantless eavesdropping on Americans and commandeering library records. Obama managed to provoke the Right by spending hundreds of billions of dollars and proposing that the government exert more control over medical care.
That conflicts with our persistent strain of anti-government feeling. Obama's election marked no sudden ebbing of this sentiment: Last December, 52 percent of Americans felt the government was "doing too much that should be left to individuals and business" -- up from 41 percent in October 2001.
One symbol used by the colonies in their revolt against the king of England was a coiled rattlesnake above the slogan: "Don't tread on me." Obama may be learning that, even for elected leaders, it's still good advice.
These are the same voters that Democrats are busily insulting right now because Democrats do not like their rejection of the Democrats health care proposals. They have lost the trust of these voters with the bailouts and the stimulus bill and they will be unable to persuade them that the health care bill will be deficit neutral. In fact the suggestion that it is deficit neutral is an insult to their intelligence.