It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet. Brown had the good sense not to identify himself as a Republican in either his campaign advertising or his victory speech.
And yet Tuesday’s special election was a dire omen for this White House. If the administration sticks to this trajectory, all bets are off for the political future of a president who rode into office blessed with more high hopes, good will and serious promise than any in modern memory. It’s time for him to stop deluding himself. Yes, last week’s political obituaries were ludicrously premature. Obama’s 50-ish percent first-anniversary approval rating matches not just Carter’s but Reagan’s. (Bushes 41 and 43 both skyrocketed in Year One.) Still, minor adjustments can’t right what’s wrong.
Obama’s plight has been unchanged for months. Neither in action nor in message is he in front of the anger roiling a country where high unemployment remains unchecked and spiraling foreclosures are demolishing the bedrock American dream of home ownership. The president is no longer seen as a savior but as a captive of the interests who ginned up the mess and still profit, hugely, from it. [continued…]
There is something almost tragi-comic in Hillary Clinton’s use of the Berlin Wall as an analogy for China’s internet censorship. The Chinese Communist Party hardly shares the American view of Cold War history; the implication that unrestrained Googling will bring down authoritarian regimes is unlikely to persuade Beijing that internet censorship is a bad thing.
But while Winston Churchill’s metaphorical “iron curtain” separated western capitalism from the sclerotic planned economies of the socialist world, what lies behind the US secretary of state’s “information curtain” is the world’s most dynamic capitalist economy, providing credit on which the US’s own economy now depends. While the West endures anaemic growth rates and massive unemployment, China’s double-digit stimulus-based recovery is the envy of all.
The transition from third-world agrarian basket case to the world’s second largest economy in just three decades has been overseen by a Communist Party with a monopoly on power and complete dedication to the pursuit of wealth through capitalism. Its response to the recession was to inject hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastructure projects, consumer subsidies and measures to ensure that banks kept on lending.
Despite (indeed, perhaps because of) that programme’s evident success, doom-mongers abound in the western media. China will overheat; its property bubble will burst; it will be dragged down by over-capacity; the absence of democracy will strangle its entrepreneurs. And so on. But these prophecies are not new, and Chinese capitalism has proven remarkably resilient, nurtured by a government that is authoritarian but not unresponsive. [continued…]