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Let’s End the Obama Consensus

In a New Republic article entitled “Obama’s Requiem for the Postwar Consensus,” Jonathan Cohn writes:

There is no Red America and there is no Blue America. Remember the first time you heard Barack Obama say that? I do. It was July, 2004, during the Democratic National Convention, when the young, skinny state senator from Illinois propelled himself into national politics.

The speech was a harbinger. Finding common ground was a recurring theme of Obama’s 2008 campaign and, arguably, of his first two years in office, although it rarely turned out as the new president hoped. Over and over again, he tried to compromise with Republicans—on the stimulus, on health care reform, and on deficit reduction—only to have Republicans walk away. (My colleague Noam Scheiber’s book, The Escape Artists, has plenty more on that, if you haven’t read it already.)

I thought about that 2004 speech twice this week, first when Obama criticized the Supreme Court and later when he criticized the proposed budget of Republican Congressman Paul Ryan. [….]

Where has Cohn been living. The “post war” consensus died 32 years ago with the election of Obama’s hero Ronald Reagan, whose announced goal was to repeal the New Deal and the Great Society. Until the inauguration of Barack Obama, liberals fought to save Social Security and Medicare, but four days before he took office Obama announced that he wanted to make “entitlement reform” a hallmark of his presidency, i.e., a new consensus has been achieved, the Obama Consensus.

But, Obama has the problem of getting re-elected and that won’t happen if he is seen as the president who ended these popular programs. He has to get the Republicans to accept the blame, and even if they agree to, he probably can’t get re-elected if he participates in such a deal this year.

But, once he is re-elected, his major agenda will be to go into the history books as the president who got entitlements under control. By contrast, if Romney gets elected, he would have re-election concerns and would be less bold about gutting the social safety net — also, the Democrats might then find leadership that would stop this gut-the-entitlements consensus and fight back.

Last week, Obama accused the Ryan budget of being “a Trojan horse.” IMHO, there is only one Trojan horse in Washington D.C. and that’s Obama himself.

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