Be­ware the law of un­in­tended con­se­quences

Democrats’ cer­tain­ties have fallen vic­tim to a fickle uni­verse

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Vic­tor Davis Han­son

The mix of pol­i­tics and cul­ture is far too com­plex to be pre­dictable. Even the best-laid po­lit­i­cal plans can lead to un­in­tended con­se­quences, both good and bad — what we some­times call irony, neme­sis or karma. Take the elec­tion of 2008, which ush­ered Barack Obama and the Democrats into ab­so­lute con­trol of the pres­i­dency, House and Se­nate, also gen­er­at­ing pop­u­lar good­will over Mr. Obama’s land­mark can­di­dacy.

In­stead of en­sur­ing a her­alded gen­er­a­tion of Demo­cratic rule, Mr. Obama alien­ated both friends and foes al­most im­me­di­ately. He rammed through the un­work­able Af­ford­able Care Act with­out a sin­gle Repub­li­can vote. He pre­var­i­cated about Oba­macare’s costs and sav­ings. Huge bud­get deficits fol­lowed. Racial po­lar­iza­tion en­sued. Apolo­gies abroad on be­half of Amer­ica proved a na­tional turnoff.

By the fi­nal push­back of 2016, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had proven to be a rare gift to the Repub­li­can Party. The GOP now con­trols the pres­i­dency, Congress, gov­er­nor­ships and state leg­is­la­tures to a de­gree not

seen since the 1920s. “Hope and change” ebul­li­tion in 2008 brought the Repub­li­cans sal­va­tion — and the Democrats count­less dis­as­ters.

The Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment hated Don­ald Trump. So did the con­ser­va­tive me­dia. His un­ortho­dox po­si­tions on trade, im­mi­gra­tion and en­ti­tle­ments alien­ated many. His vul­gar­ity turned off even more. Pun­dits warned that he had brought civil war and ruin to the Repub­li­can Party.

But in­stead of ruin, Mr. Trump de­liv­ered to the Repub­li­cans their most as­tound­ing po­lit­i­cal edge in nearly a cen­tury. The can­di­date who was most de­spised by the party uni­fied it in a way no other nom­i­nee could have.

Mr. Obama proved Is­rael’s best friend — even though that was never his in­ten­tion. By si­mul­ta­ne­ously alien­at­ing Is­rael and the Sunni mod­er­ates in Jor­dan and Egypt, and by warm­ing up to the Mus­lim Brother­hood, ap­peas­ing Iran and is­su­ing empty red lines to the As­sad regime in Syria, Mr. Obama in­fu­ri­ated but also united the en­tire so­called mod­er­ate Mid­dle East.

The re­sult was that Arab na­tions sud­denly no longer saw Is­rael as an ex­is­ten­tial threat. In­stead, it was seen as sim­i­larly shunned by the United States — and as the only mil­i­tary power ca­pa­ble of stand­ing up to the soon-to-be-nu­clear theoc­racy in Iran that hates Sunni Arabs and Is­raelis alike.

Today, Is­rael is in the his­toric po­si­tion of be­ing courted by its for­mer en­e­mies, as for­eign fuel im­porters line up to buy its huge, newly dis­cov­ered de­posits of nat­u­ral gas. As the Arab Spring and the Is­lamic State de­stroyed neigh­bor­ing na­tions, Is­rael’s democ­racy and free mar­ket ap­peared as an even stronger bea­con in the storm.

Al­most every ma­jor ini­tia­tive that Mr. Obama pushed has largely failed. Oba­macare is a mess. He nearly dou­bled the na­tional debt in eight years. Eco­nomic growth is at its slow­est in decades. Re­set with Rus­sia, the Asian pivot, abruptly leav­ing Iraq, dis­count­ing the Is­lamic State, red lines in Syria, the Iran deal — all proved for­eign pol­icy dis­as­ters.

Yet Mr. Obama has been quiet about one of the great­est eco­nomic rev­o­lu­tions in Amer­i­can his­tory, one that has kept the U.S. econ­omy afloat: a rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion from crip­pling energy de­pen­dency to ver­i­ta­ble fos­sil-fuel in­de­pen­dence. The United States has be­come the world’s great­est com­bined pro­ducer of coal, nat­u­ral gas and oil. It is poised to be an energy ex­porter to much of the world.

The rev­o­lu­tion in frack­ing and hor­i­zon­tal drilling has brought in much-needed fed­eral rev­enue, in­creased jobs, weak­ened Rus­sia and our OPEC ri­vals, and has given tril­lions of dol­lars in fuel sav­ings to Amer­i­can con­sumers.

Yet Mr. Obama op­posed the energy rev­o­lu­tion at every step. He rad­i­cally cur­tailed the leas­ing of fed­eral lands for new drilling, stopped the Key­stone XL pipe­line, and sub­si­dized in­ef­fi­cient and of­ten crony-cap­i­tal­ist wind and so­lar projects. None­the­less, Mr. Obama’s even­tual fail­ure to stop new drilling ended up his one suc­cess.

Hil­lary Clin­ton, in her pres­i­den­tial bid, did ev­ery­thing by the play­book — and there­fore her cam­paign went cat­a­stroph­i­cally wrong. Her cam­paign raised more than $1 bil­lion. She ran far more ads than did Mr. Trump. She won over the syco­phan­tic press. She got all the celebrity en­dorse­ments. She united the Demo­cratic Party.

Log­i­cally, Mrs. Clin­ton should have won. The me­dia worked hand in glove with her cam­paign. Her ground game and voter regis­tra­tion drives made Mr. Trump’s look pa­thetic.

Yet all that money, press and or­tho­doxy only con­firmed sus­pi­cions that Mrs. Clin­ton was a slick but wooden can­di­date. She be­came so scripted that even her Twit­ter feed was com­posed by a com­mit­tee.

The more she fol­lowed her bor­ing nar­ra­tive, the more she made the ama­teur Mr. Trump seem au­then­tic and en­er­gized in com­par­i­son. Do­ing ev­ery­thing right ended up for Hil­lary as do­ing ev­ery­thing wrong — and en­sured the great­est up­set in Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal his­tory.

The an­cient Greeks taught us that ar­ro­gance brings pay­back, that noth­ing is sure in a fickle uni­verse, that none of us can be judged suc­cess­ful and happy un­til we die, and that mod­er­a­tion and hu­mil­ity alone pro­tect us from own darker sides.

In 2016, what could never have hap­pened usu­ally did.


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