Obama Nails His Blue Colors to the Mast
Published on: April 7, 2012
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  • Pincher Martin

    “Right now, the GOP depends on blue failure to motivate swing voters to shift its way. That isn’t a weak position exactly: since 1968 Republicans have won seven presidential elections and lost four. But the absence of a compelling reform agenda means that Republicans have not been able to emerge as the kind of natural party of government they were between the Civil War and the Depression, and that the Democrats were between 1932 and 1968.”

    I thought that most political scientists and historians acknowledged that the twenty-year period between the end of Reconstruction and the 1896 election of William McKinley was a distinct period of roughly equal political alignment between the two parties on the national level. Not a single Republican presidential candidate and only one Democratic presidential candidate (Samuel Tilden in 1876, who lost the election despite winning 51% of the popular vote) would win a majority of the popular vote in any of those five presidential elections.

    That seems to me to be roughly where the country is at today. Neither party is likely to establish a clear and durable governing majority for the foreseeable future until something shakes the system up.

  • Anthony

    The present holding pattern cannot hold; the general populace must contend with inertia, vested interest (Blue Model), unformed recasting (Republican opposition), and imponderables (what will social arrangements look like post blue); the above for me general gist of Obama Nails His Blue Colors to the Mast.

    Now, WRM’s “what the country has had since 2000 is a series of elections in which Democrats by and large are trying to defend a status quo that isn’t working, and Republicans talk about changing it but have a muddled (at best) idea about what to do in its place” goes to heart of our democratic/institutional dilemma. That is, the American populace (generally) sense our national priorities have been out of kilter and our political system has been resistant to change….

    Going forward, can we honestly assert that it is only about blue – what is our public purpose (what Americans need to remain both competitive and sustainable).

  • Kenny

    A vote for Obama is a vote for economic stagnation and massive inflation.

  • Jim.

    Obama’s secret weapon is the fact that our fiscal troubles are so deep that many voters will emotionally oppose the sorts of cuts we’re going to need to make, to maintain America as a going concern.

    Our economy would have to roar ahead by Chinese standards — 10% per year or better, for the foreseeable future — for Blue to work.

    It won’t.

    WRM, you know the depth of the trouble we’re in. The fact that you can applaud someone for “nailing his colors to the mast” when YOU KNOW those colors will sink the fleet, is foolish in the extreme.

    Are you sure you’re “not a particularly partisan” Democrat? Because you’ve joined Obama in his war on arithmetic.

    It’s not too late — join the rest of us who want America to have a future. Or if it is too late — and history suggests that with our national debt the level it is, and our international competition what it is, we’re going to have to pull off another near-miracle — we should go down fighting for that chance, rather than killing ourselves on Obama’s Blue Unicorn Hunt.

  • David Bennett

    Don’t want to write an essay in response to an essay, but geeze. America is drowning in debt, crushed by regulation and stymied by indecision. There really can’t be any question about these basic facts. The government is borrowing $50,000 every second, a nation with the largest coal reserves in the world just outlawed new coal fired power plants and our Senate has not passed a budget in over 3 years even though it is a legal responsibility of that body to do so. WRM is contenting that we can’t really say at this time whether we should stick with our current model for a while longer? He is proposing that the problem with republicans is that they haven’t properly described exactly what a new model would look like? The problem WRM is that people like you will accept the new model if and when it is provided by the Democrat party and not before.

  • Corlyss


    Are you referring to the 2008 vote, or the 2012 vote?

  • Corlyss

    “President Obama is to be commended for nailing his blue colors to the mast.”

    ? This is new? He did it in 2007-8. He’s never really been a coy guy. It’s the voters who refused to see him for what he was. The information was out there to be had; voters just didn’t look and the media didn’t help.

  • ErisGuy

    “Blue on blue, heartache on heartache…”

    And so the election offers us Navy Blue (Romneycare) versus (P)Russian Blue (Obamacare).

  • Jeffersonian

    It’s just a question of how big the crash is going to be at this point. We had a chance to right the ship in the late ’90s, early aughts, but we went on a spending binge instead. The trend accelerated with Obama, and now we’re on rails for a Zimbabwe-esque collapse. We did it to ourselves.

  • SDN

    WRM, the “Blue Model” has never succeeded. We’re about to face the inevitable results.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began —
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire —
    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

    Rudyard Kipling, 1919

  • “And he [Obama] remains a distinctly darker shade of blue than the “New Democrats” of the 1990s for whom reform was more important than shoring up the old ways of life.”

    Weren’t they the ones who thought Nafta and Gatt would be good for the American people? And who stopped enforcing our immigration laws on a truly massive scale?

  • @ 4. Jim – “Are you [WRM] sure you’re “not a particularly partisan” Democrat? Because you’ve joined Obama in his war on arithmetic?”

    And here I’ve been worrying that he was a secret small-government/low-services Republican.

  • Dan

    I’m confused by your reference to Vermont as having a “dire fiscal situation”. I live in Vermont, and this is absolutely not the case. While Vermont is very liberal, our politicians are mostly fiscally responsible, including the new Democratic governor Peter Shumlin.


  • Pete Dellas

    One word: Gasoline. And if that one isn’t enough, “recession” and “unemployment” can be added to it. The expanding government is gutting the private sector which supports it by taxes, which are no longer sufficient to feed the beast. The printing presses can only make up that difference for so long before it all collapses under its own weight. When it does, only commodities will have any value. This is not what anyone wants to see. But we are heading in that direction and only the coersion of force will make it go beyond where the free wills on men don’t want to go.

  • Dave

    #3: Your comment merely proves WRM’s thesis. It doesn’t (as you seem to think) offer any kind of solution.

    In fact, the secular-fundamentalist “solutions” being thrown around are not solutions at all, just simple-minded panaceas that won’t work but will continue to divide the country.

    I don’t have any such grand solution to America’s ills, but it would seem to me that there are lots of experiments we could try if the two parties worked as they used to — with compromise, give and take policy prescriptions.

    The virtual shutdown of negotiation by the Republican side may be good politics (the next election will judge that theory) but it’s been disastrous for the country.

  • Koblog

    While the incoming new president will have his hands full with the disaster handed him, one thing he can do is the exact opposite of what the current corrupt, vindictive, delusional, power-mad, narcissistic, petty, divisive, racist, deficit-spending, jet-setting, golf-playing, bowing-to-tyrants, partying, blame-shifting, czar-appointing, childish, imperial, court-flouting, meanspirited, crony-enriching current occupant is doing.

    The new president can arbitrarily rein in the ever-expanding, regulation-happy, growth-stifling, hyper-expensive, unproductive, fear-instilling, facelessly bureaucratic Executive Branch of the federal government.

    He runs one whole branch of the Government. He could make that part of the government smaller, reduce its imperial reach, reduce its cost and free the people.

    The President controls and patrols the watercraft on Lake Havasu, Arizona, a landlocked state, via the Executive branch’s Coast Guard, based on the flimsy excuse that the Colorado River is an international waterway because it flows to Mexico, even though none of its water reaches Mexico?

    This kind of overreach is killing productivity and adding expansive costs to our already-bankrupt federal government.

    The Executive President could do a great deal to reduce the cost of government.

    Instead, fools like Obama and his cadre of Czars and unappointed bureaucrats-for-life hold million-dollar parties in Vegas thinking up ways to spend more borrowed dollars and extend their control to ever-finer divisions of the populace until we simply give up and surrender to their tyrannical power.

    The new president could do much if he simply acted on what Ronald Reagan said so succinctly: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

  • Douglas

    You say,

    “There are no policy proposals for health, higher education, or many other policy areas which have the natural appeal that parental choice has in K-12 education.”

    This statement ignores proposals for real choices put forth by one of the republican candidates. Choose to stay in the current Social Security System or divert half your contribution to a personal account. Choose to stay in the current medicare system or receive an equivalent credit to purchase private insurance of your preference. Choose to stay in the current tax code or pay a lower, simpler flat tax.

    Newt is a flawed messenger to be sure, but his big ideas and his experience driving change have merit. We can’t solve our big problems without big solutions like these and the experience and will to carry them out.

  • Rich K

    No pointing fingers Dave. Reid has tossed every piece of legislation sent by the house to his desk so stop the [empty words] on that score.
    Frankly, its going to be fun to see how Obama frames the debate as prices of everything scream higher every day as the election nears.There is no magic fairy dust thats going to stop this inflationary period were in and Im pretty sure the Admin knows it but has nothing else on offer.Happy Days.

  • tomw

    15. Dave: “The virtual shutdown of negotiation by the Republican side may be good politics (the next election will judge that theory) but it’s been disastrous for the country.”

    And the President did not stiff Rep Boehner and deny that Boehner had agreed to any tax increases?
    As they say: “Give me a break.”
    It is NOT all one side that refuses to play.
    Senator Reid will not submit a budget to a vote, will not submit the Presidential budget, and will not allow a vote on the House passed budget.
    Yeah, for sure, it is all the Republicans refusing to negotiate.

  • They have done considerably less well convincing voters that they have a balanced, sensible, small ‘c’ conservative plan that will do what blue programs want to do, but at less cost.

    That is because they keep trying to do what career politicians do … come up with a plan that makes them indispensable as leaders.

    They are shooting for a paler shade of blue, instead of being up-front with the American people and telling them the truth: most of the socio-economic dysfunctions we are enduring today are beyond the ability of our government to effectively, efficiently, and sustainably resolve – and that it is OUR responsibility, as individuals and neighbors, to solve these problems outside of government.

    The supporters of every shade of Blue here DON’T and WON’T have a workable plan … because it is beyond their ability — as human beings, and under the limits of a rights-respecting government — to create and implement such a plan that will secure the rights of EACH and EVERY individual.

    Until we stop outsourcing OUR responsibility to a few Best and Brightest in DC, simply because they are a one-stop shop for bags of (printed) cash, carrots, sticks and handcuffs, things are not going to get better.

  • SukieTawdry

    Well, that is the problem with the muddle, isn’t it. They can be convinced “that America can stay blue without economic stagnation or drowning in red ink” just as they were convinced that “hope and change” was a viable blueprint for the future.

    And #15, what kind of “experiments” did you have in mind? For the last 80 years we’ve been “experimenting” with New Deal and Great Society programs. They are exactly what has brought us to this sorry place. We need entirely new kinds of “experiments,” ones that are anathema to the left and, therefore, aren’t likely to be brought about through negotiation and compromise with Democrats.

    One of the beauties of the federalist system is that it gives us 50 laboratories for all manner of experimentation. But after the federal government diverts a major share of the tax dollar to Washington and then redistributes that revenue to the states with innumerable strings, mandates and edicts attached, very little experimentation is possible.

  • Mark J

    Obama has no chance. I have never felt so sure about an election in my life.

    In the next month or two any data that presently seems to favor him will be gone. Thursday’s jobs data is the harbinger of things to come. And the panicked horror of the left to it shows just how much they too know this man is driving on fumes.

  • eon

    “Rather than proposing an alternative model for the future to compete with the GOP’s, the President appears content to run on what is essentially a stand pat program: the only thing wrong with the blue social model is that it is underfunded.”

    Add in “and you peasants aren’t trying hard enough, and aren’t believing hard enough!”, and you have the standard progressive excuse for their multiple and serial failures. Except for those they blame on the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy thwarting them.

    Progressives like Obama refuse to even consider the possibility that their grand plans are anything less than perfect. When they fail, it’s obviously somebody else’s fault. So, that somebody else must be punished, and the plan must be tried again, only bigger, louder, and more expensively.

    To cite only one example, considering what we spend on education in this country in K-12 public schools alone every fiscal year, claiming that our education system is underfunded makes about as much sense as saying Versailles didn’t have enough gold-plated faucets. The only budget progressives think is adequately funded is defense, and they want that money for something else. (Their ideal adequate defense budget? Just enough for a band to play “Hail to the Chief”.)

    It’s not surprising that the President is nailing the banner of “We Need To Spend More” to the mast. What is surprising is that anybody still buys this shopworn and illogical so-called argument.

    That “argument” alone should guarantee his speedy exit from the Oval Office after November 6. The fact that it may not is a comment on just how out of touch with reality his supporters on the progressive side are.

    And how uninformed too many other voters are, as well.

    clear ether


  • a nissen

    @12 “And here I’ve been worrying that he was a secret small-government/low-services Republican.”

    The sweep of time tells the tale about the similarity between parties—concessions, from day one, when and only when the country comes close to rioting:

    Here’s G. William Domhoff on the subject in 1667:
    “the fact remains that a VERY wealthy upper class which makes concessions remains a wealthy upper class, It STOOPS to conquer, taking the advice of its English counterparts rather than the foolhardy path of the French landlords ” (emphasis added).

    Prof. Domhoff, born 1936, continues to track the similarities and openings.. See http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/

  • Why is it called “blue,” when it’s really “red,” as in the “Communist Red Menace”?

  • teapartydoc

    The problems are getting more real every day. I just found out today that a piece of property I own had the taxes raised on it by 508%. I don’t know what the politicians in that county were thinking, but they are about to turn their rural wonderland into a waste land. This is blue thinking at it’s finest.

  • eon

    Steve Stoddard @ 25;

    You can thank the MSM for that. Back during the first Bush administration, CBS, ABC, and NBC decided to change their election night map displays around. Instead of using red for the Dems and blue for the GOP as they always had, they switched them. Because the color red signifies danger in our culture (red fire trucks, red lights on emergency vehicles, etc.), and they viewed the Republicans as dangerous.

    Thus, they use the red as a not-too-subtle way of saying “These people are a danger to all we and you hold dear.” Apparently, the “Lake Reagan” effect on their maps in 1980 and 1984 was just more than they could take. It looked very soothing, and they didn’t want anybody feeling “soothed” by Republicans being in charge.

    The fact that red was the self-chosen banner color of the left going back to the French Revolution was irrelevant to the MSM, even if they knew it (and most of them probably didn’t). Yes, “Rais(ing) High The Red Banner” predates Lenin & Co.; in fact, it was first seen as an overt symbol for revolutionary (Fabian) socialism in 1848, when used by the Paris Commune in the revolt of that year. So “red” for leftists even predates Karl Marx by a bit.

    Personally, I’d prefer colors less easily manipulable from a propaganda standpoint. I’d suggest a bilious green for the GOP, and baby-p**p yellow for the Dems.

    Neither is a particularly appetizing color, and thus would accurately depict most Americans’ opinions of their self-anointed “ruling class”.



    • Walter Russell Mead

      @eon: I always thought Nancy Reagan’s taste in dresses had something to do with it.

  • richard40

    They should focus on spending as a share of gdp in the Ryan budget, vs the last Clinton budget. From that it is clear that the Ryan budget (22% of GDP initially, falling to 20% over 9 yrs) spends MORE than Clinton (18% of GDP). Since most sane people do not recall the latter Clinton years as a time when we starved widows and orphans, and in fact that period was generally remembered as a time of prosperity and fiscal responsibility, it should be quite clear that the Ryan budget is hardly radical social darwinism, as Obama charges, but is in fact a small cutback from Obama bloated excesses (spending 24% of GDP, an unprecendented high). In fact a good case can be made that Ryan does not cut near enough.

    The same measure can be used to justify no more net tax hikes, since during Clinton taxes were 18% of GDP, and will be about the same under Ryan. Only in radical leftist land could the Ryan budget be considered radical or stingy, since it spends more than Clinton and taxes about the same.

  • TycheSD

    I don’t know if I’m a typical independent voter. Like many independents, I have problems with the agendas of both parties.

    Mead states:

    “They [Republicans] have done considerably less well convincing voters that they have a balanced, sensible, small ‘c’ conservative plan that will do what blue programs want to do, but at less cost.”

    Right, I don’t trust the Republicans yet. They haven’t proven themselves to be changed people interested in true reform – or adopting innovative solutions. They’re stuck on cutting taxes for rich people and starting wars. They seem to think that, because the Constitution says that the government needs to create a defense, it’s okay to spend money on the military – but nothing else! Problem is, they expand the military like crazy when they take charge. Paul Ryan’s budget isn’t really inspiring, though I admire him for keeping the focus on the budget and spending.

    Aside from a very few exceptions (Ron Wyden, Mark Warner), the Democrats are pretty much hopeless on real reform of government. Democrats are the Party of government and they think they have solutions for every problem that comes down the pike. The problem is, they would be happy if the government just took all of our money and doled it out the way they see fit.

    The innovators in both parties need to have more power, but back room deals and seniority make that almost impossible.

  • Jim.

    OK Professor, Santorum’s dropped out. You have that clear choice now… Obama, who’s nailed up the Blue colors that will sink the ship, or Romney, that “moderate Republican” that self-described “moderate” Democrats always say they would support.

    Now’s the moment of truth, Professor. Endorse Romney! Lead the charge of the Romney Democrats! Show that the candidate of the Via Media is the one who will transcend the squabbles of the Gingrich far-right and the Obama far-left, and unite that vast center of the American electorate that has been just begging for a moderate to lead us!

    Show that it’s more than just talk and fuzzy, wishful, self-delusion. Show that “moderacy” has that broad, centrist appeal that can lead us to that cooperative, problem-resolving state that pundits say so many Americans long for!

    Endorse Romney now, and lead the Center to the promised land and victory!

  • Jared

    I must say I started reading WRM’s articles over the last month and absolutely love his brilliant articles. I think I gain just as much from the insightful comments by other readers.

    @Jim I must say your comments eloquently express my views time and time again. I must agree that many of us yearn for a centrist problem solving government. I just hope it is a voting majority… The radical, divisive rhetoric replete in politics will be the downfall of this nation. I also must agree your invitation to WRM is a fair one and I would love to see his response.

  • I must agree that many of us yearn for a centrist problem solving government.

    And that is where you go wrong. It is not in the interest of the government to solve problems. What will the bureaucrats do for work then? Get a real job? Get real.

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