Strangely enough, most liberal takes on the State of Obama, which is said to be perilous, come couched in the most passive tense.
The hostile Republican House just happens to be there. The Tea Party also just happens to be there, a spontaneous thing that sprang up for no reason. The same thing goes for the toxic divide now gripping the country, which Gallup calls one of the deepest rifts ever, worse than the days of Bubba and Dubya (brothers under the skin, as they will now tell you), from which President Obama had promised relief.
As with the opposition, the polarization and the toxic hostility are also presented as things that are happening to and around him, forces of nature just like the weather, over which he has no real control. Time after time, these irrational forces (that never existed before he aroused them) frustrate his plans to be the calm, moderate centrist his admirers think him. But did they just arise, or did he create them? Let us look backward and see.
Obama took office in 2009 with one of the best hands ever dealt to an incoming president: abundant good will, astounding poll numbers, the chance to build a stable center-left coalition that could last for a number of years. He could have moved to unite his liberal base with the John McCain voters who drifted his way when the crash happened, but he opened a spigot of deficit spending that set his more centrist backers on edge.
The Tea Party rose in response to Rick Santelli's call to "dump unfunded derivatives into Lake Michigan" and hit its stride two months later when Obama announced his plan for a national takeover of health care, when the nation's economy still hadn't stabilized and unemployment still was sky-high.
For more than 10 months, the country fought his efforts to impose health care upon it through every means possible, protesting and marching, complaining to congressmen, voting against Democrats when and where possible; in Virginia, in New Jersey, and finally even in Massachusetts, voting for Scott Brown as the "41st vote against health care" to sit in Ted Kennedy's seat.
When the voters had won, the Democrats changed tactics so Brown’s vote didn’t matter and passed the bill anyhow, rubbing it in in every way possible. In response, voters whipped the living hell out of Democrats in the midterm elections, giving the House and a total of 30 state houses to the Republicans, with orders to obstruct Obama’s designs in every way possible. This is what Democrats call "mindless obstruction," and what Obama called a "fever" (of unknown origins.) But it wasn’t mindless; it was common sense, given the extreme provocations. A sane person might call it "revenge."
The first law of physics is that every act taken produces an equal swing in the other direction, which our current conditions tend to bear out. If conservatives are sometimes extreme (and they are), they are no more so than has been Obama, who bent laws and then broke them, and respected no limits in the avid pursuit of his goals.
When he tortured the rules to pass health care, he destabilized politics and created the poisoned political climate and toxic divisions of which he and his allies complain. As Charles Krauthammer says, the Tea Party was created by Obama and health care, and the fierce fight against it echoes the manner in which it was passed. The "current unrest," as he says, is "the residue of that hubris." He's right.Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."