Monday, November 10, 2008

The Boiling Frog Theory of the American Electorate

As I've said before, Obama's instincts are liberal but he's dispassionate enough always to think his positions through before acting. That makes him more centrist. But Obama still has a very liberal agenda. How will he execute on that?

Bill Kristol writes:
His selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff suggests that Obama’s not going to be mindlessly leftist, and that he’s going to shape a legislative strategy that is attentive to Congressional realities while not deferring to a Congressional leadership whose interests may not be his own. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both tripped up in their first two years by their Democratic Congresses. Obama intends for Emanuel to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
Both Carter and Clinton lurched to the left, got their hands slapped for it, and were then forced slowly to moderate their positions for the rest of their terms. In short, they forgot the Boiling Frog Observation: If you toss a frog into boiling water, it will immediately hop out. However, if you toss a frog into cold water and slowly heat it, the frog will happily boil to death.

If Obama's smart--and he is--he'll recognize why this analogy is important to his success in transforming policy. If he starts with a moderate agenda, he won't create an electoral backlash in the out-year elections and he'll be re-elected handily in 2012. By then, he can make his legislative initiatives progressively more liberal without any reaction by the electorate. This is the key to maximizing the amount of damage he can do the country.

We have one hope: Obama may be smart, but Congress approximately has the I.Q. of the frog in question. Paradoxically, if we are to keep Obama's agenda as centrist as possible, it may be important that Obama fails to rein in the crazies on the left.

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