As polls just before the election showed Barack Obama winning, Dave Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, paid a visit to columnist Robert Novak at his home. His longtime friend was chuckling, and Keene asked him why.
“Well, my Democratic friends think they’ve died and gone to heaven,” Novak said. “If they’d been around as long as I have, they’d realize that it isn’t heaven, and they don’t have a permanent invitation to stay anyway.”
In fact, Keene tells Newsmax, Obama did not win for the reasons he thinks he did, and he can be counted on to overreach, helping to return Republicans to power.
When it comes to astute political observers, Keene has few peers. A bulwark of the conservative movement, Keene has headed the American Conservative Union since 1984. With one million members, the ACU is the country’s oldest and largest conservative grassroots lobbying group. It runs the Conservative Political Action Committee’s (CPAC) annual conference in Washington and publishes an annual Rating of Congress, the gold standard for ideological assessments of members of Congress.
Keene notes that whenever Republicans lose, the press runs stories proclaiming the death of the party.
“This is only the third time in a half century that a Democratic presidential candidate has gotten 50 percent of the vote,” Keene says. “The last two times were 1964 and 1976. And following those Democratic victories, there was in each case more than a spate of stories and analyses saying the Republican party was a thing of the past and that conservatism was dead.”
Each time, Keene says, Republicans have picked themselves up and won major victories. This time, it will be more difficult because Democrats will try to rejigger the playing field. They are intent on passing so-called card check legislation, doing away with the secret ballot when employees decide whether to be represented by a union. If that legislation passes, unions will have a resurgence, and Democrats will garner more contributions.
The Democrats also want to restore the Fairness Doctrine, which would require broadcasters to give equal time to both conservatives and liberals. To date, few if any liberal talk shows have been commercially successful.
“A fairness doctrine will help shut up their opponents and cut off conservative communication,” Keene says. “I think they’ve concluded they can’t necessarily win a debate on issues. What they have to do is shut up the enemy because their arguments too often prevail.”
Democrats may also come up with an amnesty measure for illegal aliens.
“That will bring them in and make them citizens to enlarge the Democrats’ electoral pool and voter pool,” Keene says. “I would not be surprised if there was a very early move to make the District of Columbia a state, giving it full representation in Congress. That would give the Democrats two more safe Democratic senators.”
House Republicans also believe Democrats will move to change rules for considering legislation to make it harder for the minority party to influence bills.
Given human nature, Democrats can be counted on to overreach, Keene predicts.
“In 1994, some reporter asked Newt Gingrich whether he thought the Democrats were more corrupt than Republicans,” Keene recalls. “He said no, but they’re human beings, and they’ve been in power, and power corrupts. And he said the same thing could happen to Republicans, which it did more recently. You remove them and you start over. And you go back to basics and you retrieve your brand, put it together, and you come back. That’s happened before; it’ll happen again.”
Moreover, Keene says, “Winners always misread the reason for their victory. Winners always assume that voters voted for them for the reasons they wanted them to vote for them. They always assume that the voters were saying: Do what you want to do.”
While Obama may be too smart to fall into that trap, “The people around him and the pressure groups that exist as part of the Democratic base are going to say, okay, they’ve rejected free markets, they want capital gains taxed more, they want to go after the rich, they want us to — as Barney Frank says — cut the defense budget by 25 percent. Well,” Keene says, “if they voted for those things, they did so without knowing that that’s what they were voting for.”
In part because of that tendency to misinterpret the reasons for their victory, politicians tend to overreach, Keene says.
“Clinton overreached, Gingrich overreached,” he says. “And it’s one of the reasons why the pendulum starts to swing pretty quickly. Then if they’re there long enough, the kinds of things that happened to the Republicans and the Democrats for being in too long take hold. They become part of the problem rather than part of the solution.”
The other reason the pendulum swings back quickly is that each party promises that they’re “going to solve all your problems.” Yet, a few years later, people say, “God, I elected him, but I’ve still got all these problems.” Indeed, Keene was on National Public Radio when a caller said to him, “I feel now that we can cure cancer, because Obama won.”
Another problem for Obama is that he and his people really believe that they’ve transformed the political landscape.
“In fact, if you looked at exit polls and things, Obama ran, not as the socialist he may be and that McCain tried to describe him as, but as somebody that was opposed to national health insurance and ran saturation ads saying that he is the candidate most likely to cut your taxes,” Keane says. “And being a typical liberal, he doesn’t like the war we’re in. He wants a different war in Afghanistan or Pakistan, which he won’t like once he gets into it.”
Rather than transforming the political landscape, Obama actually won yet another close election. Until the plunge in the market, John McCain was ahead in the polls.
“So you’re a voter out there who just lost a third of your pension fund and a quarter of your house value,” Keene says. “It’ll all come back, but that is not the formula for a successful election. Yet they believed their own hype, and so do a lot of the Republicans, that there was going to be this huge turnout of new people that was going to swamp the Republicans.”
In fact, Keene says, “Young people didn’t turn out in any great numbers. The absolute vote was up from last time on both sides, but it’s not the highest turnout. You know they were saying it was the highest turnout since 1908, well it wasn’t true. Black turnout was higher, but only by a little bit.”
Keene believes Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff is a sign that Obama will govern from the left. As outlined in the Nov. 7 Newsmax article Rahm Emanuel Is the Real Pit Bull, the selection conflicts with Obama’s claim in his election night speech that he wants to put aside the “partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.”
“If you’re a unifier and a bridge builder, you don’t hire Rahm Emanuel to build your bridge,” Keene says. ”He after all is the guy who said Republicans can f--- themselves. And that’s in his kinder moments.”
[Editor's Note: Read “Rahm Emanuel Is the Real Pit Bull” — Go Here Now].
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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