Rich Lowry makes some great observations on the reaction of the American electorate to this past year of the Obama presidency and Democratic control in Washington that are not at all incompatible with my own from the other day (Rights versus “Benefits”). Lowry writes:
President Barack Obama learned from Bill Clinton’s mistakes in 1993-94. He ran, relative to Clinton, a buttoned-up transition. He sought to avoid Clinton’s tactical miscues on health care. And he steered clear of cultural land mines.
The backlash against Democrats in 1994 was famously attributed to “gays, guns and God.” Obama has mostly avoided stoking opposition around that hot-button triad, but faces a backlash almost indistinguishable in feel and intensity. Why?
Big government became a cultural issue. The level of spending, the bailouts and the intervention in the economy contemplated in health-care reform and cap-and-trade created the fear that something elemental was changing in the country — quickly, irrevocably, without notice.
Obama has run up against the country’s cultural conservatism as surely as Clinton did. But Obama is encountering its fiscal expression, the sense that America has always been defined by a more stringently limited government than other advanced countries. It’s an “American exceptionalism” backlash.