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The audacity of nope

OBAMA'S PLAN: "You know the way to boost your poll numbers is not do anything." (Charles Dharapak/associated Press)
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The book now seems as dated as "The Iliad." The common ground that Obama hoped for has turned out to be the size of a bathroom scale.

Far more in tune with the times is a new book titled "We Are Doomed," by John Derbyshire, who argues that his fellow conservatives have succumbed to "foolishly utopian ways of thinking," and need to get in touch with their inner pessimists.

"I call you to the politics of despair!" Derbyshire writes.

Also on the shelf in the Politics/Government/Hysteria section of bookstores:

"Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism" (Ann Coulter)

"Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America" (Mark Levin)

"Thieves in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back" (Jim Hightower)

"Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class" (Thom Hartmann)

"Fleeced: How Barack Obama, Media Mockery of Terrorist Threats, Liberals Who Want to Kill Talk Radio, the Self-Serving Congress, Companies That Help Iran, and Washington Lobbyists for Foreign Governments, Are Scamming Us . . . and What to Do About It" (Dick Morris and Eileen McGann)

There is much talk these days about populism, the political movement advocating the interests of ordinary people rather than elites and capitalists. Increasingly, populism is inseparable from anger. Can someone be a happy populist? Not today: All populists must carry metaphorical pitchforks.

When he ran for president, Obama benefited from the tide of anger. He viewed his victory as a mandate for change, but really he had a mandate to be someone other than George W. Bush. By October 2008, Bush had achieved a "strongly disapprove" rating of 58 percent. Polls showed that voters didn't see much difference between Bush and John McCain. And thus Obama -- who got the Democratic nomination in part because of Hillary Rodham Clinton's unusually large "negatives" -- probably would have been elected even if he had rolled across the country in a tiny clown car.

He has since learned that the American people are almost as opposed to change as they are to the status quo. It now appears that the three major ideological groups that object to the health-care plans under discussion in Congress are: the conservatives, the moderates and the liberals.

Obama's critics on the right have been implacable in their opposition. What's new is how mad liberals are. Conservatives loathe Obama; liberals are merely disgusted with him. Here are a few headlines from liberal blogs Tuesday morning in reaction to the announcement that the president wants a freeze in non-security-related federal spending:

"It's Official: Obama Is an Idiot" (Paul Rosenberg)

"Barack Herbert Hoover Obama?" (Brad DeLong)

"Obama Liquidates Himself" (Paul Krugman)

"Obama's Self-Inflicted Lobotomy Proceeds Apace" (Jonathan Zasloff)

The political winds are gusting, and in no particular direction. Conventional wisdom has become conventional disorientation. The party in power is utterly powerless. The president's last true friend is his dog.

Fickle is the new steadfastness.

The Republican minority has been accused of having no message other than "No." As if that weren't a winning message. As if we lived in an era when the things people were in favor of were more numerous than the things they were against.

That's just not the way it is now. Today, the nays have it.

Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.

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