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The Obama snap-back

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POSTED: October 14, 2009 10:06 a.m.
A buzz-generating “Saturday Night Live” skit mocked President Barack Obama for not yet having accomplished anything. Not fair. Obama has been on a roll.
In nine months, he has breathed life into the Republican Party, boosted pro-lifers, tarnished the reputation of regulation, bolstered traditional values, increased the public’s desire for immigration restriction and shifted independent voters rightward. If only RNC Chairman Michael Steele were so deadly effective.
No, Obama hasn’t, as once promised, turned back the oceans. Maybe if he gets a second term. Nonetheless, revivifying conservatism almost before books announcing its death could be published qualifies as a feat almost as miraculous.
Obama’s liberal grandiosity has reminded people why they tend to be conservative, something they wanted to forget during the last four years of the Bush administration. Gallup’s surveys in recent months are a long catalog of the Obama snap-back.
Fifty-three percent of Americans want government to promote traditional values — “a return to the prevailing view from 1993 through 2004.” Half of Americans want less immigration — “a return to the attitudes that prevailed in the first few years after 9/11.” Forty percent of Americans describe themselves as conservative — “a level last seen in 2004.” Fifty-one percent of Americans call themselves pro-life — “a significant shift from a year ago.”
It all explains the Obama administration’s rush to push sweeping legislation. The fall from grace of George W. Bush coupled with the financial crisis, created a golden hour for American liberalism. The public’s attitudes shifted left, and anything — a New New Deal! a Greater Great Society! — seemed possible. Now, public opinion is returning to its natural state, and the Democrats are left in a race against the clock.
They want to pass, by roughly yesterday, a health-care program that won’t take effect until 2013. The fact that the program is unpopular (53 percent oppose it, and 33 support it, according to the latest Fox News poll) only makes its swift passage more imperative. Hurry, before the window closes entirely.
Obama and the Democrats have even managed to snap-back attitudes toward regulation. In the wake of the financial crisis, a Michael Moore documentary trashing capitalism would have seemed superfluous. But TARP, the auto bailouts and the $787 billion stimulus have soured people on government more.
According to Gallup, 57 percent of Americans say government is trying to do too many things best left to the private sector. More Americans (45 percent) say there is too much business regulation rather than too little (24 percent). It’s the worst showing for regulation ever in a Gallup survey. “However, a March 1981 Los Angeles Times poll using this question wording recorded a 54 percent ‘too much’ level,” Gallup explains. “This was just after Ronald Reagan took office, and may have reflected Reagan’s emphasis during the 1980 presidential campaign on the need to reduce government involvement in American society.”
When Obama suggested he wanted to be another Reagan, surely this wasn’t what he had in mind. But for now, he’s the right’s best community organizer.

Lowry is editor of the National Review.
 

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