Michael Barone argues that Obama and his democrat party allies misread their mandate. Americans voted for cool professionalism and an end to bitter partisanship. Obama and Congressional democrats believed they had finally received the voters’ blessing to create a European-style welfare state.
Misreading those tea leaves is proving extremely politically costly.
Obama campaigned as someone who would rise above partisan divisions. He first attracted national attention in 2004, when our politics was a kind of culture war, by stressing what red-state America and blue-state America had in common. He campaigned in a similar vein in 2007 and 2008.
But when he came to office in 2009, the cultural issues that had occupied so much of the political landscape for a dozen years had been eclipsed in importance by the financial crisis and the deepening recession.
So Obama was faced with a fundamental choice. He could either chart a bipartisan course in response to the economic emergency, or he could try to expand government to Western European magnitude as Democratic congressional leaders, elected for years in monopartisan districts, had long wished to do.
The former community organizer and Chicago pol chose the latter course.
To the surprise of many who watched previous presidents present specific administration policies to Congress, he allowed Democratic leaders to design the stimulus package they rushed into law in six weeks.
One-third of the money went to state and local governments — an obvious payoff to the public employee unions that contributed so much money to Democrats — and much of it went to permanently increase the baseline spending of discretionary programs, a longtime goal of Democratic congressional leaders. …
Team Obama failed to realize they were no longer running in Chicago or in the Democratic primaries or facing an electorate fed up with Republicans. And, more important, they failed to realize that vastly expanding government goes deeply against the American grain — and against the basic appeal of their successful campaign.