Denial is a river that runs through the White House, where the denizens are in the grip of two major delusions: one, that the country really wants really expensive big government, and two, that Obama is “sort of like God.”
Since early last spring, they’ve been waging a fight with the reality principle, convincing themselves (and fewer and fewer in the larger political universe) that in the very next speech, Obama will recapture that old campaign magic. If people don’t like what they’re doing, the way to regain and to hold their affection was to give them much more of the same.
In the face of plummeting polls, stunning upsets in blue states and gathering dread among Democrats, they carry on as if the year 2009 never happened, and they were back with their mandate and magical candidate, who was declared a success before he even took office.
Conservatism was dead, the age of big government being over was itself over, and we were all socialists. And if we weren’t at the beginning, Obama would talk us around.
A year in, the Obamatrons barely seem to have noticed that they have divided the Democrats, lost independents and revived the small government forces as never before. On the heels of the 2008 TARP bailouts, they launched a $787 billion stimulus package, followed by health care, cap-and-trade and Government Motors, when the public cared about economic expansion and jobs.
Cap-and-trade passed the House, but was stopped in the Senate, and the more people heard about health care the less enthused they became. Obama’s numbers fell into the mid-40s, the tea parties became more popular than the Democrats and/or the Republicans, and analysts began talking of a “wave” midterm election, like those in 2006 and 1994, when one or more houses of Congress changed hands.
Rep. Marion Berry and other unnerved centrist Democrats went to the White House to beg them not to force them into the “swamp” of having to vote against their constituents. Obama assured them no harm would come to them. After all, as he said, “You’ve got me.”
They did, and they found out in short order what good this would do. Obama campaigned for Creigh Deeds in Virginia, a swing state he had won handily, and draped himself over Jon Corzine in deep-blue New Jersey. Corzine lost by five points; Deeds by eighteen. He went to Massachusetts to help Martha Coakley win the seat held by Sen. Ted Kennedy. Scott Brown won by five points on a pledge to fight health care, taking with him the Democrats’ supermajority.
Did this jolt Obamaland out of its reveries? No.
On March 4, Reuters’ Chrystia Freeland explained the administration’s rationale for its renewed health care offensive: “The reason ... we have the moral authority to do this is Massachusetts was just an act of God,” she said. “We had that seat; we got profoundly unlucky. This election wasn’t scheduled to happen normally, so we shouldn’t allow this to knock us off course.”
Peggy Noonan said there have recently been “interventions” (the term for when loved ones send you to the Betty Ford Clinic), as in, “So and so tried an intervention with the president, and it didn’t work.” David Gergen said Obama reminded him of the old joke about how many psychiatrists were needed to change a light bulb.
Only one, goes the answer, but the light bulb must want to change first.
Let’s hope Obama decides soon his light bulb needs changing — before the river Denial sweeps him out to the sea.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”