I was prepared to offer a sympathetic interpretation of the White House’s preemptive attempts to assuage liberal anxiety ahead of the midterms by dismissing them as mere bravado. The administration’s claim that it would mount a “counter offensive” in the wake of likely midterm losses struck me as posturing – the president, I reasoned, surely could not be so self-absorbed that he believes he will possess enough political capital after the midterms to press for, much less enact, his agenda. This was surely a message aimed at a particularly narrow audience.
But the president’s post-shellacking presser on Wednesday was a stunning misreading of the moment. More than once, the president was quick to remind the assembled reporters that he is the person “elected by everybody” and that his Republican opponents were supported by a mere one-third of the public. Neither is true, but it is a comforting gesture that reinforces a groundless belief among Obama’s waning enthusiasts that the president’s opposition is illegitimate.
Still, this could all have easily been pretense. Obama, a charitable analysis would yield, is merely establishing a façade to prevent the further dissolution of his Democratic coalition. He could not possibly believe that he will be able to govern from a position of strength after his administration has restored Republicans to a position of power they had not known for well over a half-century.
Today, the White House showed me how misplaced my forbearance was. This clip flagged by The Washington Free Beacon, illustrates the degree to which the White House may truly believe that the president remains a powerful force in the capital. There is no way to characterize this statement from White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough other than to call it what it is: delusional.
“Is there one thing you can say to American voters they’re going to see that’s different, given the message they sent on Tuesday,” NBC News White House correspondent Chris Jansing asked.
“They’re going to see Washington working better if this president has his way,” McDonough replied.
What gall. What absolute intransigence. What pure disdain for the people this president purports to represent.
If this is strategic communications, it’s deeply flawed. This tactic is likely to energize the minority of those who would not abandon Obama if he robbed a bank, but it is just as likely to terrify marginal Democrats who are responsive to the will of the people.
And the anxiety in Democratic ranks is palpable. “No Democrat is gearing up to challenge Nancy Pelosi in public, but behind the scenes some Democrats are saying it’s time for new blood at the leadership table ahead of 2016,” Politico reported on Friday.
“As a party, we need to change,” another senior Democratic aide said. “[Voters] like our policies. All this leftie [talk], the country likes, but somehow the message about us as individual members of the conference isn’t breaking through. There is great unrest.”
As Ed Morrissey observed, the Democratic Party is signaling outwardly that they will refuse to acknowledge the will of the electorate. It is unfair to call such a hapless approach to governance a “strategy,” particularly because it is so likely to backfire on Democrats. It is far more likely that what we are witnessing is confusion and paralysis.
If you went to sleep in December, 2008 and awoke today, this country’s political landscape would appear virtually unrecognizable to you. It seems as if a few Democrats are still reveling in the dream they enjoyed in 2008.