The election of Scott Brown to the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat is being seen, and I believe rightly so, as at least a partial referendum on President Obama’s first year. Obama and his PR machine have chalked up the recent setback – and dwindling approval ratings – to not getting the message across. For a President that is more media-savvy and media-beloved than any in recent memory, this seems ludicrous. President Obama’s problem is not that people don’t *get* the message – but rather, precisely the opposite. (How could we not get the message with THIS LEVEL of media exposure??)
Obama was elected on the promise of “hope” in some degree of “change” that he would bring to the White House. He rode a wave of (especially) youth support to a victory (not a landslide, though) over John McCain. The Republicans, in my view, rightly paid for many years of not living up to their own beliefs with George W. Bush, especially in fiscal matters – and of course, W’s woeful public persona. Personally, I liked the man and still do, but his public attributes fit Texas much more than the international scene.
And so, Obama was elected to get us back “on course.” “The world” was so happy that Americans agreed with them on the Presidency of George W. Bush, that they hurried to give Obama unearned accolades (the dynamite-prize for peace, in particular). What change would come?
Hard to tell, so far. The radical, anti-war left has been unhappy with his ratcheting up of the war in Afghanistan. Many of the young supporters that were so hyped up during the campaign have retreated to their dorm rooms, back to listening to their iPods and watching ghastly excuses for entertainment like ‘Jersey Shore’. And an attempt at hurrying through sweeping legistation that would dramatically (and permanently!) alter the entire American health care sector has gone, by any measure, less than smoothly.
And now, with Scott Brown’s election, there is chance that it may not work at all. Why the turnabout? I think this change in our medical system is, for better or worse, inevitable. But I fervently believe that the Obama administration has attempted too much, too fast (not unlike W trying to get Social Security “fixed” immediately after his reelection). Winning roughly 60% of voters to your cause does not give you the mandate, whoever you are, to rush through such major changes.
Obama’s election has woken up a sleeping Right. Conservatives, unfortunately, tend to criticize better than they govern. Yes, there are extremes, and they are sometimes deplorable (on both sides). I believe, though, that we are seeing that Americans are, as is often said, a center-right country. Being by and large moderately conservative, though, does not mean we are opposed to all change. Conservatives seek to do precisely that – conserve – not cement. We believe that a government does its best work when it goes slow. Incidentally, this is why the Constitution was set up with so many checks and balances, and such flexibility. Ours is a great system because it is highly adaptable but not in short periods of time. So, President Obama, perhaps we want your change. It is hard to tell at the moment. But you can be sure of this: we are in no hurry. If your program is indeed what’s best for us, take your time with it. I am not one of your supporters, but I hope that those who are will insist on this: take it slow.
A historical aside:
Why do conservatives prefer slow change? Quite frankly, because we generally trust what is, what is known, what has been practiced and found true, more than what might be preferable around the corner. Edmund Burke, writing just as the French Revolution was entering its darkest days, wrote the following:
…we think that no discoveries are to be made, in morality; nor many in the great principles of government, nor in the ideas of liberty, which were understood long before we were born, altogether as well as they will be after the grave has heaped its mould upon our presumption, and the silent tomb shall have imposed its law on our pert loquacity.