President Obama appeared to be in full denial of last week’s message sent by voters during a press conference in Greece Tuesday. Despite the obvious repudiation to his legacy by having to hand over the keys to the White House to a man he personally campaigned against as “unqualified,” Obama continued to espouse the notion that the American people are in full support of his policies.
“People seem to think I did a pretty good job. And so there is this mismatch I think between frustration and anger. Perhaps the view of the American people was that we just need to shake things up. Time will now tell whether the prescriptions that are being offered — whether Brexit or with respect to the U.S. election — ends up actually satisfying those people who have been fearful or angry or concerned. And I think that’s going to be an interesting test, because I think I can make a pretty strong argument that the policies we put forward were the right ones and we’ve grown faster than just about any advanced economy. The country is indisputably better off, and those folks who voted for the President-elect are better off than they were when I came into office, for the most part. But we’ll see whether those facts affect people’s calculations in the next election.”
While it’s true that the latest presidential approval ratings show that the American people give President Obama a 52.9% (RCP avg) they also believe, overwhelmingly, that the country is headed in the wrong direction. RCP’s average of that critically important poll says 61.6% of the American people don’t like the direction in which Obama has led them.
So why the dichotomy in polls? How can the American people give the president high(-ish) approval ratings and yet hate the direction our country is going? It’s pretty simple, actually.
The ambiguous “Do you approve of the job President Obama is doing?” is wide open to interpretation and personalizes the response to an opinion of Obama, himself, not his policies.
Obama, and the Democrats for that matter, have made the mistake of confusing the president’s personal popularity with a mandate for the policies they try to push. Oama, to many Americans, is a likable guy. He’s great at going on Jimmy Kimmel and reading mean Tweets. He’s fantastic at “Slow Jamming the News” with Jimmy Fallon. These things make him likable, as a person, but does not translate to support for his policies.
Forget about these opinion polls for a moment though. Just look at the record.
Since Obama was sworn into office in January, 2009, when the American people have the opportunity to vote for his party (and candidates who support his policies) they have gone in the opposite direction. Big league.
Here’s the scorecard: Since Obama assumed office, Democrats have lost 63 House seats, 10 Senate seats and 12 governorships. Add to that the over 900 (!) state legislature seats Republicans have wrestled from Democrats’ grasp. This trend culminated with a man with no prior electoral of government experience and with the lowest popularity ratings of any prior presidential candidate winning the White House.
Honestly, the only major victory Democrats can claim since Obama won in 2008 is his re-election in 2012. And that election, based on exit polls, was another example of Obama’s personality overcoming Republican Mitt Romney’s superior poll position on several key issues.
Again, personality over issues.
In his book Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down, Democrat Bill Press makes the case that “Obama grossly misunderstood the mandate of the enthusiastic crowds that swarmed him on the campaign trail.”
It appears he continues to make that mistake. And while House Democrats decide whether Nancy Pelosi should continue to lead them and Senate Democrats are poised to elevate Chuck Schumer to their top spot in the Senate, it seems the rest of the party is in the same kind of denial as the president.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.