Green Room

Times Slimes Obamic Climes

posted at 7:31 pm on November 23, 2009 by

The mighty New York Times has abruptly woken from its slumber to discover that President Barack H. Obama hasn’t been doing too well recently on the approval front; Adam Nagourney has finally noticed a couple of disturbing facts:

Mr. Obama’s decline a year into his term comes as he struggles through a decidedly sour climate. The unemployment rate has jumped above 10 percent and shows no sign of abating. At this point, even if Mr. Obama cannot be blamed for causing the economic decline, Americans are growing impatient with him to fix it.

His main legislative initiative — the health care bill — is the subject of a messy fight in Congress, displaying Washington in the very bitter partisan light that Mr. Obama promised to end. It has provided Republicans with a platform to stir concerns that Mr. Obama is using the health care overhaul to expand the role of government beyond the comfort level of many Americans; polls suggest that these arguments have helped sow significant doubts.

Nagourney is still not quite sure this is really happening; it could just be an artifact of the One being outside the country for a few days. But he does concede that there might be the faint beginnings of something happenin’ here…

Still, there does seem to be the suggestion of a trend here.


Approval of Barack H. Obama from inauguration to 23 November 2009

Gee… you think?

InstaReynolds wrote a short (now there’s a shock!), powerful (ditto) post yesterday (which happened to be the 46th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, though that that is neither here nor there). In the post, Glenn Reynolds analyzed the narcissism rooted deep in the 2008 election — and it’s not the one you’re thinking of:

I think Obama’s “charisma” was based on voter narcissism — people excited not just about electing a black President, but about themselves, voting for a black President. Now that’s over, and they’re stuck just with him, and emptied of their own narcissism there’s not much there to fill out the suit. As Ann Althouse says, “I think what Obama seems to have become, he always was.”

This is what is meant by a phrase some have used that is undoubtedly racially offensive — but also certainly true in a very deep sense: “Barack the magic negro.” American voters felt great joy in finally being able to vote a black man into the Presidency of the United States; and even those who have neither racial animus nor guilt should be pleased that there is no longer a color barrier for the most powerful position in the world (though still a gender barrier). It’s impossible to forget that for most of our history, that “color barrier” was all too real and all too deliberate, even after the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But once the magic wears off, and we find ourselves stuck with the quotidian edition of Barack H. Obama instead, then the narcissistic impulse to support him fades. When he is left with only himself, his policies, and his appointees, then many erstwhile supporters recoil and ask, “What hath Man wrought!”

So in that sense, Nagourney’s headline (which I’m sure he didn’t write) — “An Unsurprising Slide for Obama” — is quite true. But that is no comfort for la Casa Blanca; because Nagourney notwithstanding, the reaction is not a temporary blip in an otherwise smooth presidential trajectory. As the graphic above graphically illustrates, the slide is not only not surprising, it’s not sudden; neither does it show any sign of suddenly stopping.

We rightly congratulate ourselves (collectively) for electing a black president over a white candidate that nobody could call unAmerican, dishonorable, or ridiculous, however much we may wish he were a better Republican. But when we’re done patting ourselves on the back, we feel no compulsion to re-elect him after he has proven himself such a risible, unprepared, unqualified farce. This slide is permanent, changeable only if Obama himself changes significantly:

Mr. Obama’s aides argue that the political culture of Washington is too fixated on each new bit of approval-rating data.

“I think the history of these things is that Washington becomes absorbed with them,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “But not every day is Election Day. There’s not all that much relationship about what these things mean and what’s going to happen in an election a year — or three years — in advance.”

Axelrod can spin like a whirling Dervish, but he cannot bring the magic home again; Obama will never again enjoy a default approval of 65%. Like every other president, he will rise and fall (mostly the latter, if I’m any judge) on the basis of what he does and how he governs.

Adam Nagourney does have one point quite right:

Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster, has long argued that the gap between the public’s views of Mr. Obama and of his policies is politically significant [sic — I think he meantinsignificant“], and that it is only a matter of time before the two measures meet. If that happens, Republicans could find it easier to engage Mr. Obama, whether by challenging him on policies in Washington, or running against him in Congressional elections next year, the way Democrats ran against George W. Bush in the 2006 midterms.

This of course explains the rush of the Democratic caucus in Congress to pass anything and everything they can this year; because by next year, too many of them will be fighting for their political lives to risk it all on pushing unpopular, deviant, even terrifying legislation that nationalizes more and more of American life, empowering the federal government at the expense of the people.

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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Re the Reynolds quote

I think Obama’s “charisma” was based on voter narcissism — people excited not just about electing a black President, but about themselves, voting for a black President.

I called them Vanity Voters and I knew many of them. The curse of the me-generation has caught up with all of us. Everybody expecting the mirrors to tell them they are the fairest of them all.

But now those pesky mirrors are telling them Ms. Palin is one fairer yet.

perries on November 24, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Some of those “Vanity Voters” may have voted that way so we could be over any ridicule of racism in this country. in either case, they don’t like what they ended up with.

Obama may have inadvertantly set back the Civil Rights movement by about a decade. It will be difficult for a black man to be elected to high office for some time after The Won leaves.

Ace ODale on November 24, 2009 at 7:31 PM

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