For Mort Zuckerman, the end of the love affair occurred months ago — and perhaps it did for many others as well Until Tuesday, though, they hadn’t yet delivered the Dear Barack letter to the White House. Now the only way Obama can woo his electorate into a reunion is to fix the problems that he has made almost infinitely worse, and to do that, Obama may need to send a Dear Left letter in the next session of Congress:
The results represent a sharp rebuke to President Obama, who interpreted his 2008 “vote for change” as a mandate for changing everything and all at once. Right from the start, he got his priorities badly wrong, sacrificing the need to help create jobs in favor of his determination to pass Obamacare. It was the state of the economy that demanded genius and concentration, and it just did not get it. The president will now have to respond to public anger, not with anger management and, not, please God, with still more rhetoric. The unusually revealing exit polls spell it all out—how he re-energized the Republican Party, lost the independent center, and failed to overcome the widespread sense that the country is heading in the wrong direction. …
He came across as a young man in a grown-up’s game—impressive but not presidential. A politician but not a leader, managing American policy at home and American power abroad with disturbing amateurishness. Indeed, there was a growing perception of the inability to run the machinery of government and to find the right people to manage it. A man who was once seen as a talented and even charismatic rhetorician is now seen as lacking real experience or even the ability to stop America’s decline. “Yes we can,” he once said, but now America asks, “Can he?”
The last two years have exposed to the public the risk that came with voting an inexperienced politician into office at a time when there was a crisis in America’s economy, as the nation contended with a financial freeze, a painful recession, and two wars. The Democrats were simply not aggressive enough or focused enough in confronting the profound economic crisis represented by millions of ordinary Americans whose main concern was the lack of jobs.
Strong stuff, but not as strong as Zuckerman’s earlier analysis that Obamanomics had become the economy’s Katrina. And the problem isn’t limited to economics, either:
Today the polls indicate that the president has reached a point where a majority of Americans have no confidence, or just some, that he will make the right decisions for the country. There isn’t a single critical problem on which the president has a positive rating. It didn’t help when he kept on and on asserting that he had inherited a terrible situation from the Bush administration. Yes, enough, and sir, the country elected you to solve problems, not to complain about them. …
The public disillusionment has now hardened. In a Quinnipiac poll this summer, only 28 percent of white voters said they would back Obama for a second term if the election were held then. Still, those results do not mean the public will go Republican next time. It depends on the candidate and the party. A centrist Democrat could win again—someone like retiring Sen. Evan Bayh, who sets a better course for the party in a New York Times op-ed. “A good place to start would be tax reform. Get rates down to make American businesses globally competitive,” he writes. “Simplify the code to reduce compliance costs and broaden the base. . . . Ban earmarks until the budget is balanced [and] support a freeze on federal hiring and pay increases.”
The love affair with Obama is over. The jobless will be the new swing voters. Unemployment, underemployment, and collapsing home equity will be the leading factors in 2012. The administration hopes the economy will have improved significantly by then, but it is running out of time and out of the confidence of the American public.
If Obama is hoping for economic recovery by 2012, then we’re in big trouble, and so is he. He has done nothing to create an environment for growth, and far too much for an environment for stagnation. Hope won’t get us into a high-growth mode, and the lesson of the last two years is that massive spending and borrowing by the federal government won’t do it, either. In order to generate the election-saving economy Obama desperately needs, he has to roll back regulatory expansion, reduce the cost of risk for investors, and set up long-term policies for growth rather than use gimmicky short-term interventions that do nothing but steal future demand and create even more instability and uncertainty.
Can Obama do that? Only if he applies for a divorce from his base on the Left. As Zuckerman says, he’s running out of time to serve them papers. If he doesn’t change course quickly, time will run out for a recovery that will restore confidence in his leadership.