Michael Barone is a straightforward policy wonk in terms of
political facts both current and historical. He’s watching all the
current feverish battles to rush drastic legislation past the people,
and sees a remarkable collision course in the process.
In the Bella Center on the south side of Copenhagen and
in the Senate chamber on the north side of the Capitol, we’re seeing
what happens when liberal dreams collide with American public opinion.
It’s like what happens when a butterfly collides with the windshield of
a speeding SUV. Splat.
The liberal dreams may have seemed, on those nights in Invesco Field
and Grant Park, as beautiful as a butterfly. But they are still subject
to the merciless laws of political physics.
Reality has struck.
“What’s really exceptional at this stage of Obama’s
presidency,” writes Andrew Kohut, the Pew Research Center’s respected
pollster, “is the extent to which the public has moved in a
conservative direction on a range of issues. These trends have emanated
as much from the middle of the electorate as from the highly energized
conservative right. Even more notable, however, is the extent to which
liberals appear to be dozing as the country has shifted on both
economic and social issues.”
From which we can draw two conclusions. One is that economic
distress does not move Americans to support more government. Rasmussen
reports that 66 percent of Americans favor smaller government with
fewer services and only 22 percent favor more services and higher taxes.
The second is that Barack Obama’s persuasive powers are surprisingly
weak. His advocacy seems to have moved Americans in the opposite of the
So will that make a movement toward a third party, of some sort,
inevitable? Grassroots activism is driving politics somewhere, and
whatever direction that takes, it’s away from where we’ve been for the