Last night, I had a long conversation with my wife about the Obama presidency and electoral politics in general. My political self has been at something of a loss lately — when there is something to fight for I can scrap with the best of them, but at the moment I just feel disconnected.
It’s certainly not for a lack of opposition to rail against. It’s just that the party I most often align with is incapable of leadership on crucial issues. A lot of this is Congress’ fault. But as dysfunctional as the legislative branch may be (and it is certainly that), I feel that the president deserves his share of the blame.
I’m not alone. It appears that no one is really happy with Obama right now. The left feels let down and isolated, and the right, well, they’re out for blood. The latest numbers put the president’s approval rating at just 43 percent, a new low. This is certainly unwelcome news for his reelection staff.
I’m just trying to figure out what Obama can possibly gonna run on. “Hope” and “change” are off the table. Let’s see… what’s left… things aren’t as bad as they could be? That’s not exactly campaign slogan material. I don’t think he can run on health care reform — Americans aren’t interested in renewed debate, and it’s red meat for the opposition. Can’t talk about troop drawdowns, ’cause Americans only care about one thing right now: jobs. And he can’t talk about that, because the economy isn’t adding any.
At least he got Bin Laden. Right? Right?
My wife made the observation that we might actually fare better under Mitt Romney. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but it makes sense if you think about it. First of all, Romney’s record indicates that he’s a fairly moderate Republican. Earlier in his career, he very plainly supported a woman’s right to choose. If elected, I doubt he’d push to overturn Roe v. Wade (he’d probably just leave it to the states, which is kind of what Obama is doing by default). Romney’s health care solution in Massachusetts looks a lot like what the President promoted (and ultimately got). On the campaign, Mitt has to tack rightward to appease the teabaggers. But those positions wouldn’t necessarily carry over to the Oval Office.
My wife’s most interesting point was that, instead of negotiating against himself, like Obama, Romney could end up giving the left more of what they want. It’s not hard to picture him telling his party that he “had to make concessions” in the course of negotiations. And those concessions might very well be more than we get out of Obama, due to the fact that he gives away half the store BEFORE entering talks.
I know some people are calling for a democratic primary, but I’m not willing to go that far. First, I think it would splinter the party at a time when democrats can least afford it. Second, I’m not sure there are any attractive candidates. Hillary Clinton isn’t a remote possibility, so let’s not go there.
I’m sure there are smart and talented people on the president’s team. But I do wonder what they’re thinking right now. It’s like everyone is just standing around waiting for him to advance an agenda we can all rally behind. Even those with excellent lung capacity couldn’t hold their breath for that long.
To be fair, there aren’t a lot of great options at the moment. Another round of stimulus is highly unlikely. Forget about “green initiatives” to spur investment and job creation — the president just backed away from his clean air agenda because corporate lobbyists made squeaky noises. It would be difficult for the president to make any of his proposals stick. But without real achievements or bold new ideas, he’s gonna have a lot of difficulty convincing Americans to vote for him again. I guess the Obama Era was a lot shorter than anyone could’ve anticipated.
We’ll see what his big jobs speech looks like on Thursday. I’m not expecting much beyond austerity and platitudes. I’ve said time and again that Obama’s true failing is in communication. He simply doesn’t know how to — or refuses to — talk directly to the American people in a manner to which they can relate. His inability to do so is, in my opinion, the basis for the largest squandering of political capital in recent memory.
This presidency has become an island unto itself. They don’t like it when the left singles them out when the president acts like a moderate republican (although Obama is easily to the right of Nixon). And they don’t understand why the right won’t let them join their special club. It’s because you’re on THE OTHER TEAM!!! (Also you’re black.)
It’s going to be really interesting to watch the White House try to turn out the vote in 2012. I’m pretty sure that the only easy path to reelection would be a Michelle Bachmann nomination. And even then I’m not 100 percent convinced he wins.
And that is a sad thing. A truly awful, sad thing.