Time wonders how Obama lost his mojo
posted at 8:45 am on September 2, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Some of us might answer that question with “the media was finally forced to cover him properly,” but let’s not get too picky about that now. At least the media has begun to notice that Hope and Change has worn threadbare in a very short period. Time calls Barack Obama “Mr. Unpopular” in its headline today, and reports on the steep decline in support for Obama over the course of his nineteen-month administration. They describe his “overreach” on policy, but Michael Sherer starts off closer to the truth in the beginning of his analysis:
A sense of disappointment, bordering on betrayal, has been growing across the country, especially in moderate states like Indiana, where people now openly say they didn’t quite understand the President they voted for in 2008. The fear most often expressed is that Obama is taking the country somewhere they don’t want to go. “We bought what he said. He offered a lot of hope,” says Fred Ferlic, an Obama voter and orthopedic surgeon in South Bend who has since soured on his choice. Ferlic talks about the messy compromises in health care reform, his sense of an inhospitable business climate and the growth of government spending under Obama. “He’s trying to Europeanize us, and the Europeans are going the other way,” continues Ferlic, a former Democratic campaign donor who plans to vote Republican this year. “The entire American spirit is being broken.”
One explanation for Obama’s steep decline is that his presidency rests on what Gallup’s Frank Newport calls a “paradox” between Obama and the electorate. In 2008, Newport notes, trust in the federal government was at a historic low, dropping to around 25%, where it still remains. Yet Obama has offered government as the primary solution to most of the nation’s woes, calling for big new investments in health care, education, infrastructure and energy. Some voters bucked at the incongruity, repeatedly telling pollsters that even programs that have clearly helped the economy, like the $787 billion stimulus, did no such thing. Meanwhile, the resulting spike in deficits, which has been greatly magnified by tax revenue lost to the economic downturn, has spooked a broad sweep of the country, which simply does not trust Washington to responsibly handle such a massive liability.
Let’s check some assumptions in this paragraph. Has Porkulus “clearly helped the economy?” Or has it merely provided a short-term spike that has already dissipated without fixing the underlying problems of the economy? The economic collapse, after all, did not come because the US didn’t do enough road projects or spend enough money on pork. It didn’t even result from a lack of government investment in alternative energy resources. In the shortest of short terms, the massive government spending provided a bump upward in GDP — a reflexive result — but in the long run, it means higher debt and less capital for private-sector expansion. Plus, of course, it failed to keep millions of jobs from disappearing, which was its explicit mission.
And then there was the overreach. Obama ran as a post-partisan moderate, a pose that the media enthusiastically accepted and contrasted with John McCain’s supposed representation of the Old Guard establishment. Instead of embracing financial responsibility and a moderate course, Obama instead ignored the fact that America was bleeding jobs for most of the past 19 months to get a far-Left agenda pushed through Congress:
Rather than address these concerns as the economic crisis grew, Obama made a conscious choice to go big with government reforms of health care and energy. The bailouts of the auto companies, the rescue of Wall Street and the new regulation of banks and the financial industry only deepened the public’s skepticism, especially among independent voters. Rather than dwell on the political problems, the President pushed his team forward, believing, in the words of top adviser David Axelrod, that “ultimately the best politics was to do that which he thought was right.”
If Obama thought that the best politics was to adopt that agenda, then why didn’t he run on the platform of the hard Left in 2008? Scherer doesn’t even bother to challenge this rather wan defense. Instead, he accepts it at face value.
Obama has become unpopular because voters are angry over the bait-and-switch that Democrats used to get him elected, with the help of a cheerleading media. After 19 months, the nation knows Obama a lot better than they did in 2008, and they see an inexperienced and incompetent executive who has a dedication to an agenda of arrogance and top-down control. Had the media done its job in 2007 and 2008, this would have been no surprise — and Obama wouldn’t be President, either.