Real Clear Politics
Beware the Law of Unintended Consequences
By _Victor Davis Hanson_
December 01, 2016
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 Obama's landmark candidacy.
Instead of ensuring a heralded generation of Democratic rule, Obama
alienated both friends and foes almost immediately. He rammed through the
unworkable Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote. He
about Obamacare's costs and savings. Huge budget deficits followed. Racial
polarization ensured. Apologies abroad on behalf of America proved a
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, Trump delivered to the Republicans their most
astounding political edge in nearly a century. The candidate who was most
by the party unified it in a way no other nominee could have.
Obama proved Israel's best friend -- even though that was never his
intention. By simultaneously alienating Israel and the Sunni moderates in
and Egypt, and by warming up to the Muslim Brotherhood, appeasing Iran and
issuing empty red lines to the Assad regime in Syria, Obama infuriated but
also united the entire so-called 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 U.S. --
as the only military power capable of standing up to the
soon-to-be-nuclear theocracy in Iran that hates Sunni Arabs and Israelis
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
even stronger beacon in the storm.
Almost every major initiative that Obama pushed has largely failed.
Obamacare is a mess. He nearly doubled the national debt in eight years.
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 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
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
and has given trillions of dollars in fuel savings to American consumers.
Yet Obama opposed the energy revolution at every step. He radically
curtailed the leasing of federal lands for new drilling, stopped the Keystone
pipeline, and subsidized inefficient and often crony-capitalist wind and
solar projects. Nonetheless, 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 Trump. She won over
the sycophantic press. She got all the celebrity endorsements. She united
the Democratic Party.
Logically, Clinton should have won. The media worked hand in glove with
her campaign. Her ground game and voter registration drives made Trump's look
Yet all that money, press and orthodoxy only confirmed suspicions that
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
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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