I've just read a really interesting article on Politico about Obama's seeming imperviousness to cultural attacks from the right. Though I have this sneaking suspicion that the article is really looking for an excuse to dig up every single anti-Obama culture war argument they can find ("He bowed to the Saudi king! He ADMITS his middle name is Hussein! He's talking to... FRENCH people!") in the guise of analysing them, I think the underlying point of the article is basically true: no one gives a damn.
This has many causes, but first among equals, perhaps, is the general sense that the political center of gravity has shifted away from the Baby Boomer generation and therefore from its generational arguments - draft dodging hippies versus "silent majority" reactionaries. As in my previous post about Socialism, to many of us these types of arguments feel stale and irrelevant.
But the article also makes another point that I found trememdously inciteful (and encouraging):
And then there is the nature of Obama’s victory last year.
“He had a coalition where he didn’t have to figure out how to get socially conservative voters behind him,” noted Carrick, a South Carolina native who has helped his clients navigate the culture wars. “He won with younger voters, Latinos, African-Americans and college-educated suburban voters. Those folks, for different reasons, just don’t care about some of these issues.”
In other words, Obama didn't win in November just because he was able to persuade a sufficient number of actually-conservative voters that he wouldn't be too scarily progressive. He actually has a pretty respectable majority composed of people who WANT him to be at least somewhat progressive. Demographic changes in the country, plus the most successful Democratic get out the vote operation in History have made that possible for the first time in a long time.
Larry Sabato thinks this will be a re-aligning election - personally I'm not sure. We'll know in a couple of years whether we're heading in that direction, because a successful midterm election would make three in a row for the Democrats.
But I do think there are trends in our favor that go beyond just the Republican failure to get themselves organised. Although that is, it must be said, quite spectacular in its own right.
Update: And another thing! As Steve Benen at Washington Monthly points out and as I should have mentioned initially:
It also seems that Obama isn't taking any meaningful hits because his policy agenda is fairly close to the one he presented during the campaign. Martin questions, for example, why the president has gotten away with a more progressive policy towards Cuba. Maybe it's because he already told us he'd do exactly that?
Indeed, with a few notable exceptions, most of the President Obama's agenda is in line with Candidate Obama's agenda. He wants to raise taxes on the wealthy while cutting them for the middle class? He wants to reform the health care system? He wants a withdrawal timeline for U.S. troops in Iraq?
Perhaps the president "skates" on these issues -- all of which the right finds outrageous -- because it's what voters hired him to do.