It’s pretty clear to me that if the economy is not perceived as having staged a solid recovery by next year at this time, the Democrats will take quite a beating in the mid-term elections. But the opposite conclusion doesn’t follow — a solid recovery doesn’t guarantee Democratic success. The economy had recovered from the 1991 recession by 1994, yet the Republicans still won a staggering victory in that election.
The 1991 recession was a mild one, and there are other differences between the landscape then and now. But President Obama has one particularly good reason for concern that a rising economy might not lift the Democratic boat in 2010 — his agenda has been so aggressively left-liberal that voters may want to create greater balance in Congress just to check the president’s power to effectuate radical change, regardless of how the economy is faring.
This doesn’t mean that Obama should tone down his agenda. He has a once in a half-century or so opportunity to move this country decisively towards his leftist vision. The smart move, plainly, is for him to take advantage of that opportunity and hope for the best in 2010.
But if voters are going to be ambivalent or worse about some of Obama’s important policy initiatives, it’s important from his perspective that they continue to like him and his style of governing. And it’s vital that they not fear him or the way he wields power.
This is why the administration is making a potentially serious mistake by taking on a harsh, almost Nixonian air when it comes to dealing with its critics and opponents. The more Obama enables the “Chicago Way” meme to catch on — by targeting Fox News, the Chamber of Commerce, and Humana Corporation, for example — the more incentive he gives voters to curb his power in 2010.
I don’t expect Obama to moderate his administration’s approach, however. This, it turns out, is who he is.
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