While President Obama has been traipsing around Asia, his political brain trust has been back at the White House "soul-searching" to figure out how they can still have jobs on January 21, 2013. ['Soul-searching' Obama aides: Democrats' midterm election losses a wake-up call, by Anne E. Kornblut, Washington Post, November 14, 2010]
At present, Obama's strategy to get re-elected is simple: wait. Wait for the economy to improve (possible); wait for minorities to remember to show up to vote in 2012 (likely); wait for Republican politicians to remind the public why they kicked them out back in 2006-08 (highly likely).
But what if Obama decided instead to earn re-election through an act of historic statesmanship?
Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. But I thought I should throw it out there.
What would be the one sector of public life in which he, personally, had the political capital to make a decisive difference?
(I'll let you mull on that question awhile.)
A few of the reasons Barack Obama got elected President in 2008 still seem plausible (if increasingly ancient history)), such as the quality of his Democratic and Republican opponents. But most of the other rationalizations of 2008, such as a national spasm of racial self-congratulation and a covert desire to impose upon blacks a respectable role model, increasingly appear, in these hard times, to be eye-rollingly inane.
What were we thinking?
It's highly evident by now that Obamania was a media-manufactured, race-based fad. (Exactly as I argued in my book America's Half Blood-Prince). It will be hard to gin up again, especially given that Obama's chilly personality is not naturally appealing to voters.
And the Democrats are in big trouble heading toward 2012 because their long run strategy of achieving one-party rule by "electing a new people" is, very slowly, provoking its own offsetting nemesis. Unlike in, say, 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote by holding George W. Bush to only 54 percent of the white vote, Obama's Democrats gave up 60 percent of the white electorate in 2010 to the Republicans, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the GOP was largely leaderless.
This racial realignment is taking place at a glacial rate. But the logic is inexorable. If one party gets to win by playing by a set of rules like racial bloc voting, then it's hard to imagine that the other party will eternally eschew competing by those same rules out of Politically Correct fastidiousness.
That's what has happened in the South, which has been the main locus of multiracial political competition. For example, in the South Carolina U.S. Senate race, Democratic candidate Alvin Greene, an unemployed black man who has been living with his father since being kicked out of the military, carried the black vote 80-9. But he lost because the white Republican incumbent Jim DeMint won the white vote 82-9.
Okay, so the 2010 South Carolina contest wasn't exactly Lincoln v. Douglas. But if we prefer a country where citizens listen carefully to long, closely reasoned speeches before making up their minds to one where people vote tribally, well, we should have thought of that before a massive change in the demographic balance was engineered.
But all this hardly means that the GOP will be a sure thing in 2012. Back in 2000, I pointed out that Bush would have romped home over Gore in the Electoral College if he'd only carried 57 percent of the white vote. But even 2010's 60 percent might not be enough in 2012—if Obama can persuade a huge enough number of minorities to turn out to, in his memorable phrase, "punish our enemies".
Moreover, white Republicans are inherently limited at playing this game of "we're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends" that minority Democrat politicians such as Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Luis Gutierrez play so blatantly.
White Republicans can't—and, even more importantly, don't want to—follow this strategy.
Clearly, media bias plays a role. Look at the bad press the Southern Strategy has gotten—so bad that Ken Mehlman actually apologized for it while he was Republican National Committee chairman.
But more fundamentally, white voters don't like voting merely for the self-interested racial reasons for which Waters' and Gutierrez's tax-and-spend constituents happily cast their ballots.
White Republicans don't want to vote just because it will be good for themselves, their kids, and the people their kids are likely to marry. They wish to have principled reasons for opposing what Waters and Gutierrez want to do to them.
Congressman Waters, for instance, unapologetically wrote quota hiring into the financial reform act because it's good for blacks. In contrast, white politicians aren't supposed to write quotas out of bills because they are bad for whites. They are supposed to justify everything by appeal to Kantian universal principles, which is a lot more complicated and likely to break down somewhere.
And white Republicans particularly don't want to be accused of having racial reasons for their political preferences. Therefore, white Republicans tend, especially since Obama's election, to espouse complex ideologies explaining why a low tax-low spend system of government is better in principle.
Of course, white Republicans still do get accused—constantly—of racism. After all, as the concept of "disparate impact" explains, white people have, on average, more money, so, therefore, their desire to keep more of it away from the government is, mathematically speaking, racist.
In summary: neither party looks ready for 2012.
While Obama might idle his way to a narrow re-election, he also might not. He'd be best off doing something. But, given his talents, what could he do that would help put people back to work and significantly lower the GOP's white share of the vote below 60 percent?
History shows that Presidents are most likely to achieve their most memorable accomplishments by betraying their supporters.
Sometimes, these acts of base backstabbery turn out to be a good thing, such as Bill Clinton signing the welfare restriction bill in 1996 or Richard Nixon going to China in 1972.
When Ronald Reagan decided that Mikhail Gorbachev was ready to negotiate with him in good faith, he alarmed some of the most fervent Cold Warriors. Yet most Republicans felt that Reagan had earned his reputation for not being suckered by the Soviets, so they trusted him.
Of course, some acts of Chief Executive treachery turn out vastly destructive. Most notoriously, Republicans credulously trusted George W. Bush as he inflated the Housing Bubble by demanding from his regulators 5.5 million more minority homeowners, and by ignoring his oath of office to enforce the immigration laws. Republicans never would have let a Democratic President get away with such a fiasco.
(Allyssa Katz's excellent book Our Lot shows that the Democrats under Clinton would have liked to inflate a minority housing bubble, too. But back then, they only dared push the envelope on lending to a limited scale because of Republican scrutiny. With Bush in office, however, that scrutiny fatally relaxed.)
In an alternative universe in which John McCain had had the guts to take Obama to the mat over Rev. Wright, the Arizonan likely would have made a pretty miserable President. Yet one constructive thing McCain would have been politically well-positioned to do—if he so chose—would have been to use his reputation for bloodthirstiness to instead declare victory in the expensive war in Afghanistan and bring the troops home.
In contrast, Obama, hamstrung by his lack of military credibility, is now hinting that he'll keep troops in Afghanistan past his announced withdrawal date of 2011, all the way to 2014.
So in what field does Obama have the personal credibility to declare victory and bring the troops home?
Where does he possess the personal authority to end a wasteful war, thus simultaneously improving the economy and getting himself re-elected by reassuring white voters?
Foreign affairs? No.
Economics? Obama is not a leader with an impressive track record of creating wealth. His career, such as his wasting $100,000,000 as chairman of the Annenberg Chicago Challenge, has been essentially ornamental. Hiring Obama has been a stylish way for affluent white people to expend surplus wealth.
The lone area where Obama has enough personal credibility to pull off a Nixon-goes-to-China political revolution: civil rights. As a black, as a former discrimination plaintiff's attorney, as a one-time law school lecturer on "racism and the law", and as the author of an autobiography subtitled A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama has standing to make an "admission against interest".
My suggestion: Obama should declare victory in the half-century old War on Discrimination—which Ed Rubenstein of VDARE.COM recently estimated costs 8 percent of a year's GDP, or over a trillion dollars.
It's been widely noted that firms in 2010, even highly profitable ones, appear in no hurry to rehire full-time workers. One problem is the costs of government mandates, such as health care. Another is uncertainty over government actions.
Government-mandated uncertainty is the essence of current anti-discrimination law. Hiring legally unprotected whites is dangerous because that accumulates statistical evidence of disparate impact discrimination. But hiring legally protected minorities is a legal minefield because of the potential costs of discrimination lawsuits if they don't work out and have to be let go. (A friend who owns a small business explains: "If I can't afford to fire them, I can't afford to hire them".)
Not surprisingly, firms have been slow to hire American citizens, who can get them in trouble with the Feds. Employers have using the recession to outsource work to Asia or to hire illegal immigrants off the books. It makes more sense to work a few official employees long and hard than to hire many.
To rectify this, Obama could announce that his election as President shows that the civil rights war is officially over and it's time to reap the peace dividend: the federal government can dramatically cut back its persecutions of employers for race-related reasons.
Nothing the President could do with a stroke of his pen would do more to cut unemployment by making it legally safer to hire Americans than Obama announcing that, between now and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act in 2014, he will lay off most of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission bureaucrats and other federal racial inquisitors.
And the business climate would be immediately improved by Obama abolishing the EEOC's innumerate "Four Fifths Rule".
Similarly, Obama could order the Justice Department to switch sides in the Bush Administration's egregious Vulcan Society disparate impact lawsuit. The federal government should instead support the Fire Department of New York for using an objective test of firefighting knowledge in its hiring.
After all, that's what a lot of people more or less assumed they would be getting from electing Obama President. In reality, Obama campaigned in 2008 at black colleges like Howard University for more quotas and more jobs for quota enforcers. You just didn't hear about that because you weren't supposed to hear about that.
I think ending the War On Discrimination could raise Obama's chance of re-election from, say, 50 percent to, say, 80 percent.
But, obviously, Obama isn't going end quotas.
Still, maybe someone could ask him why he isn't considering it?
And, now the idea is out there, maybe the Republicans could pick it up?
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]