President Barack Obama won’t be hitting the trail today or Election Day to stump for Democrats. The president concluded his midterm campaigning over the weekend with a stop in sapphire blue Connecticut. There, Obama stumped for a deeply unpopular incumbent Democratic governor and a local member of Congress who declined to be there in person lest a camera-wielding tracker catch her and the president in the same frame.
The national environment has turned on Democrats, and the conditions that could create a pro-GOP wave election are evident. Obama is facing another “shellacking,” as he called the midterm drubbing his party suffered in 2010, and voters are quick to say that the president is the problem. Most surveys have found that, by two-to-one margins in some cases, voters hope to send a message of disapproval to the president with their vote in November. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released on Sunday, 67 percent of the public would like to see “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of change in the direction Obama is leading the country after Tuesday.
The White House isn’t listening.
After predicting a Democratic victory which would result in the in-party keeping control of the Senate, Vice President Joe Biden insisted in a recent interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger that the president is just fine the way he is. Theirs is a communications problem, the vice president insisted. “We have to be more direct and clear about exactly what it is we’re looking to do,” Biden said. “And look, we’re — we’re ready to compromise.”
According to the quotes White House officials are giving reporters widely read by Democratic partisans, the White House is firm in the belief that Obama does not have to change.
“Administration officials tell us that Obama’s political and policy teams are planning a big counterattack if the Republicans win the Senate—introducing a slate of legislative proposals and executive actions on immigration, infrastructure and early childhood education that are popular with the Democratic base and that he will dare the GOP to oppose,” wrote Politico’s Glenn Thrush and Carrie Budoff Brown .
This picture paints an image of Obama as a vainglorious Napoleon returning to Paris after Waterloo. The president is now just another of history’s great and defeated figures who steadfastly refuse to accept the unfavorable conditions his own hubris invited, shuffling armies that exist only on paper toward fronts that long ago collapsed.
“Obama and his team, gearing up for one final fight, say they are intent on not throwing away the next two-plus years,” Thrush and Brown continued. “West Wing officials concede that Obama is weary of the endless partisan combat and the unrelenting six-year GOP strategy of attack, but they insist he has absolutely no intention of embracing his inner lame duck.”
Politico’s scribes insist that an Obama comeback after two historic rebukes at the hands of voters is not a “crazy scenario,” but that framing concedes that it would defy history. Many of Obama’s advisors privately told these reporters that Obama is consumed with animosity toward the fates that so cruelly elevated him to near divinity only to abandon him. He hates that Democrats no longer want to be seen with him. He despises the fact that his formerly close confidants are eager to leave the White House. Most of all, he resents the voters who have imposed these conditions upon him.
“Obama’s loathing for Washington, an attitude that reads as ennui to outsiders, has hardened into a sullen resignation at being trapped in a broken system he failed to change, advisers told us,” Thrush and Brown revealed.
You have failed him.
All of this smacks of hollow and perfunctory morale boosting. Obama has shown no outward signs of the vigor his advisors insist that he is imbued with in interviews with credulous reporters. It was only months ago that, amid a series of proliferating crises around the globe, the political class determined that the golf and fundraiser-obsessed Obama had simply “checked out.” Does it really stand to reason that, in the wake of his final rejection by a public that once adored him, Obama will reapply himself to the presidency with renewed vitality? Or is this merely an effort to keep his troops from outright mutiny? The latter is far more likely.
In the wake of the Democratic Party’s 2010 defeats, it seemed as though Obama might go the way of Bill Clinton; triangulate, moderate, embrace centrism. The president did work with newly ascendant Republicans to strike a deal increasing unemployment insurance for a temporary extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, and he appointed the business-friendly Bill Daley to serve as his chief of staff. It did not last. A freshly reelected Barack Obama made repeal of those tax cuts for the nation’s top earners a priority. Daley lasted just one year in his role before he movedon to more productive pursuits.
It seems this time around, Obama is not even pretending to be interested in shifting to the middle. Instead, his allies target Democratic partisans with a message of defiance. The fight, they insist, will continue. The cause endures. But it is a mere feint. There is no stomach in the Oval Office for anything other than showpiece battles over Potemkin legislation. Obama is a spent force. Democrats will come to terms with this soon, when it becomes indisputable that the president has no more interest in governing. But they will only be joining the rest of America which came to that same conclusion months ago.