Political Features August 6, 2011: Will Conservatives Elect Obama Again?

POLITICAL FEATURES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Will Conservatives Elect Obama Again?

Source: Michael Medved, The Daily Beast, 8-6-11

After President Obama’s faltering, uncertain performance in the recent debt-ceiling crisis, and with new polling showing self-described “conservatives” outnumbering “liberals” by crushing, consistent margins, Republicans ought to face the upcoming presidential race with eagerness and confidence.

Nevertheless, political professionals uniformly predict that the president could easily cruise to re-election and will, at the very least, wage a close, hard-fought campaign against even the most formidable Republican opponent.

This glaring contradiction between the nation’s ideological tilt to the right and President Obama’s continued status as front runner for 2012 exposes two important secrets about voting patterns of the American electorate.

First, ideological orientation seldom determines the success or failure of presidential contenders. And, second, race remains a decisive factor for enough US voters to dictate the outcome of close national elections.

On ideology, Republicans felt powerfully encouraged by results of an Aug. 1 Gallup poll  showing nearly twice as many American adults calling themselves “conservative” (41 percent) as those who see themselves as “liberal” (only 21 percent). The survey reports that these numbers have remained surprisingly constant since 2009, and that liberals have languished below 25 percent for nearly twenty years….READ MORE

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Featured Historians Julian Zelizer: The painful price of deficit hysteria — Debt Ceiling Showdown

FEATURED HISTORIANS

Source: Julian Zelizer, Salon, 7-29-11

The painful price of deficit hysteria

Library of Congress/AP
Barry Goldwater and Paul Ryan

Regardless of the outcome of the debt ceiling debate, conservatives have already scored a major victory over liberalism. Even if President Obama emerges from the struggle in stronger political shape than the GOP, the fiscalization of American politics — meaning the focus of debate on deficits and debt — constitutes a powerful blow to liberal Democrats who once hoped that President Obama’s election would herald a new era for their cause.

Liberals were wrong. Conservatives, who have a mediocre field of presidential candidates and who don’t control the Senate, have been able to stand their ground.

Perhaps one of their most lasting accomplishments since the midterm elections has been their ability to shift national debate toward the problem of deficit reduction. While there has been disagreement among politicians and economists about whether this is the correct time to deal with this issue given the laggard state of the economy, conservatives have won the battle. Even Nancy Pelosi said this week, “It is clear we must enter an era of austerity, to reduce the deficit through shared sacrifice.”

We are all fiscal conservatives now, at least on paper.

None of this should come as a surprise. Focusing on deficit reduction has been a long-standing strategy for proponents of conservatism ever since modern liberalism took hold in the 20th century. Whenever liberals make progress on their policy agenda, conservatives’ best bet has been to talk about the budget. While it is difficult to directly oppose many government programs, since the public tends to support specific services, it is easy to raise fears about overall costs. Those are just numbers, not programs. Moreover, budget-balancing has long been symbolically important to many Americans. As the political scientist James Savage has shown, a balanced budget represents to many citizens the perception that the government maintains control over its operations….READ MORE

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