President Obama's extremely ambitious plans to remake and expand the federal government's role in American life is running up against popular resistance.
His climate change bill barely squeaked by in the House. It remains hugely controversial because most independent estimates forecast dramatic increases in energy prices and unemployment if the president ultimately winds up signing it into law.
His health care overhaul is stalled in the Senate as lawmakers grapple with the prospect of a much larger federal role in health care, not to mention a price tag of $1 trillion. Speaking of trillion dollar spending plans, the president's cherished $787 billion stimulus bill which was enacted in February has failed to create jobs. Unemployment is now at 9.5% and still climbing. When their domestic agenda stalls, presidents traditionally look abroad. Hence, Obama showed up this week in Moscow to meet with Russian leaders, argue missile defense and the meaning of the Cold War with Vladimir Putin, and perhaps take some solace from the continuing cheers of the international news media and opinion elites.
It was Yogi Berra who said, "It's deja vu all over again." History does repeat itself. If history is a guide to the future, 2010 will be a good year to run as a Republican.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, the party not in control of the White House has gained seats in every off-year election after a president's first election except for two times (1934 and 2002). Off-year dynamics are different and by the time they roll around many of the themes dominant in the presidential election have faded. Most importantly, new presidents and their administrations almost always overreach. And Barack Obama and his Democratic Party are overreaching in a big way.
Did Americans who supported Obama in November ever imagine that his administration would aspire to run the auto industry and GM? "Obama Motors" is now in business after spending billions in taxpayer dollars. Does anyone really think getting the federal government more involved in the car industry will make things better?
Did Americans think an Obama administration would aspire to take control of our health care system? There are major problems in our current system that need to be fixed, but having the government compete with private insurance plans will not make things better. There is also the matter of the additional one trillion dollars that Obama plans to spend. Does anyone think more spending on a government insurance option will make things better?
Did Americans think an Obama administration would aspire to take control of our financial system? The original justification for the bank bailouts was to, supposedly, clean up bank balance sheets and remove "bad loans" or "toxic assets" from their books. Instead, we have bailouts and more proposed government control of our entire financial system. Obama's plan is so bad that banks are racing to repay government loans to be free of federal controls, proving yet again that government intervention in any sector almost always makes things worse, not better.
Did Americans think that an Obama administration would propose the equivalent of a "carbon tax" on energy sources that could double electricity rates for everyone? -- We need to tap our own sources of energy in America, not make it even more difficult to develop the energy we need to grow our economy and create new jobs.
Finally, did Americans think that an Obama administration would already succeed in doubling our national debt during his brief time in office? Under Obama's own budget figures, should he end up serving two full terms in office his deficits would be larger than the deficits of all 43 of his predecessors combined. Does anyone think that doubling the national debt will make things better?
This is not change we can believe in.
The American people instinctively understand that more government control of health care, of energy, of manufacturing and of our financial system will not make things better. Republican candidates who offer a competing vision of less government, more choices for individuals and families, lower taxes, and a growing economy with more jobs will be rewarded by the voters.
Let's look to the future.
Republicans are the party of American greatness. We aim to help everyone realize their full potential but not by relying on government paternalism. The comeback begins in 2010.
Frank Donatelli is chairman of GOPAC, the center for training and electing the next generation of Republican leaders.