Democratic opposition boosts fortunes of Ryan’s budget plan 

Faced with a fork in the road, President Barack Obama and the Democrats have decided to take it, trying to do two things at once: Rekindle the glow of the 2008 rapture, and recapture the rage of the town halls a year later, and unleash it, this time for their side.

Phase one is not going brilliantly, as one can run on “hope” and “change” only once in one’s lifetime, and after that, change means voting oneself out of office.

Phase two — the hope that the Medicare-cutting plan advanced by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan will kindle the rage-in-reverse that Obamacare once did — may also be problematic.

It worked before, but all sorts of things that worked before have ceased doing so today. There have been mutterings, but, so far, few signs of mass outrage. Why not?

First of all, there’s no sense of an imminent threat. In 2009, people correctly saw that Democrats were going to ram health care through regardless of anything, which only increased their frustration.

Today, there is no chance of Ryan’s plan passing before 2013 at the earliest, and it would not pass in its present form in any case.

Second of all, if people feared having their benefits lessened, they now have a new fear, which is somewhat larger: that the system may crater itself.

Never before have annual federal deficits reached into the trillions; never before have whole nations defaulted; never before have states teetered (as has California) on the brink of disaster, due to retirement funds run amok.

Never before has there been so much proof, coming from so many sources, that the welfare state has become unsustainable and will require deep cuts to survive. The choice isn’t between Medicare as it is and a revised, leaner version, but a leaner form or collapse of the government. With collapse of the government come no checks

Third of all, suspicion is forming that being singled out by Obama as a target and foil may not be such a bad thing.

A month into his term, Obama (approval rating then in the high 60s) squared off with Dick Cheney (approval rating 19 percent) over “torture” and the detention of prisoners. Cheney won that one and began his slow climb out of  the cellar; (and Obama ultimately was forced to embrace the Bush-Cheney protocols).

That done, Obama tried to marginalize Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. They are still here.

Next, Obama and friends tried to make the tea party toxic. It dominated the months up to the 2010 midterms, put an end to Obama’s transformative visions, and showed Madam Speaker Pelosi the door.

In the last days of the campaign for that election, Obama made then-House Minority Leader John Boehner a target and foil; he is now Mister Speaker.

And no one was more of a foil than George W. Bush, blamed by Obama for all of his problems, (including the debt, which he himself tripled). Bush ended 2010 with a major best-seller, and sometime before the year ended, his ratings and Obama’s converged.

Conservatives have thrived on the Democrats’ animus. Now that Ryan has safely been placed in their crosshairs, how high can he go?

Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations; The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”

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