President Obama's remarks at his postelection news conference were instructive on his attitude about the election results and his approach going forward.
He always pays lip service to hearing the voters' message when his side loses but then reveals he hears only what he chooses to hear.
He said that what stood out to him was that the American people had sent the same message they had sent for the past several elections. How can that be?
If he had said the people had sent a similar message to the one they'd sent in 2010, it would have made more sense. But what commonality is there in the election results of 2012, when he was re-elected, and those of 2010 and this past week?
For the sake of argument, let's play along. What message did he divine from the voters Tuesday?
Well, he said the American people expect their elected leaders "to work as hard as they do." I assume he was not interpreting the message as a rebuke for his excessive golf playing, especially in the very moments of crisis, because he included all elected officials in his statement.
"They expect us to focus on their ambitions and not ours," he continued. "They want us to get the job done."
What ambitions? Finish what job? For Obama to imply that the people share policy goals that can be achieved by bipartisan legislative action is as insulting as it is misleading.
Liberals, for example, don't want to work with conservatives to repeal Obamacare and restore market forces to health care. They don't want to roll back the oppressive federal regulatory state. They don't want to simplify the tax code and quit punishing producers and businesses. They don't want to allocate sufficient resources to rebuilding our defense forces so that we can properly conduct this growing war on terror. They don't want to enforce existing immigration laws and secure the borders. They don't want to defang the Environmental Protection Agency.
Conservatives don't want their elected representatives to work with Democrats to further grow the government and restrict individual liberties and market forces. They don't want the administration to continue this charade that there is barely a war on terror going on.
It is a mistake for either side to assume that the two polarized sides of the aisle share many of the same goals. You might counter that both parties want the American people to be more prosperous. I'm not sure that's even true for Obama, who famously said that he'll tell us when we've made too much money. But even if most Democrats arguably share our goal of increasing prosperity for all Americans, they have an entirely different idea as to what policies are necessary to bring this about.
They are now fixed on this bizarre idea that we can grow the economy from the middle out. I have no idea what this even means — and I'm quite confident they don't, either — but look at how they propose to achieve it: through redistribution of existing resources. They never consider the idea of expanding the pie; they only think about transferring income and wealth from certain groups to others. That's how they believe you grow the middle class, as opposed to getting the government out of the way and unleashing the innovation and industriousness of the American people themselves through profit and other market incentives. So even if we agree on the goal of prosperity, we are 180 degrees apart on how to get there.
The same is true of health care. Conservatives don't believe that maximizing the numbers of insured is the best way to increase access to quality care and freedom of choice and to reduce costs to individuals and government. Indeed, we believe our experiences with Obamacare already demonstrate that these stated goals not only will not be achieved but also will be thwarted by increased government intervention. The invisible hand of the market always creates more efficiencies than the most brilliant of central planners.
Our respective ideas on the war on terror and foreign policy in general couldn't be further apart. Obama and his team barely want to acknowledge that we are involved in a war or that overt acts of terrorism are terrorism. They seem to believe that we can end these hostilities by sweet-talking radical Islamists and keeping ground troops out of the Middle East.
There is no end to the number of issues on which Obama and his party have an entirely different vision than what now appears to be a majority of American voters.
In his news conference, Obama revealed that whether or not he heard the American voters, he has no intention of changing his fixed ideological course.
That is why those in the newly elected Republican majority would be making a very serious mistake to pretend they can work with him. They need to present legislation to him that aligns with conservative principles, even if his vetoes are a foregone conclusion, and thwart all attempts he makes to continue on the same path of increasing the size and scope of government and subjecting us to further, existentially dangerous debt.
A realistic goal for them would be to roll back some of Obama's damage and prevent any more while biding their time until 2016, when we can hopefully elect a president who shares enthusiasm for the American dream and America's uniqueness and exceptionalism.