President’s centrist tack isn’t working
As I write this, President Barack Obama has a 29 percent approval rating in the polls. The trajectory of his poll numbers is going down. His low popularity is being fueled not only by the Republicans in this country but, more importantly, by some Democrats who believe that Obama has let them down.
One of my personal heroes, Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont, has gone so far as to suggest that Obama should have a primary opponent. Apparently, Sanders believes that the only way to get Obama to reach his potential as a progressive Democrat is to force him into it. That may be true if you believe that Obama is a progressive Democrat.
It would appear that Obama has a philosophy and it goes something like this: “If I can position myself as a centrist and convince both parties to meet in the middle, give up their political and partisan bickering, and just work for the good of the country, I can bring this country back to a healthy state.” In fact, his belief that he and his political colleagues can make that happen is at best misguided and at the least, just plain wrong.
It is open season on Obama. Some of it is racism. Take a look at the blogs and notice the constant posts from those who used to be “birthers” until Obama’s citizenship bona fides were proven. They insist on using his middle name, “Hussein.” You’d have to believe in the tooth fairy not to understand what these creeps are up to.
Over and over again, they attack him in a way no American president has been attacked, at least not in recent history. The presidency is the hardest job in the world. Obama goes to Martha’s Vineyard and the attacks are unceasing, particularly from poor Mitt Romney who just can’t seem to make his campaign work. When all else fails, issue a vitriolic attack on the president.
We all know that the failed Bush administration handed Obama an economic boondoggle that was so bad it will take years to undo. The Republicans are blaming Obama for what they themselves did. Their propaganda machine just keeps repeating it over and over again and people believe it.
But even that isn’t enough to explain the downward polls. With so many millions of people unemployed and so many homes still underwater and facing foreclosure, people are scratching their heads and seeing no improvement. When a major league team loses, no matter how much people admire the coach, he gets fired. His employers yell, “Next!” In this case, the tragedy is that if Obama is defeated by the same Republicans who borrowed unconscionably, fomented the crisis in the first place, and are dead-set against a fair taxation system, the country will end up in even worse shape.
Obama is no fool but he may have made some mistakes. Had he played it smart in an FDR way — ignored the Republicans, gone to the people who needed jobs, created a modern day version of the Works Project Administration (WPA), worked on the crumbling national infrastructure, formulated a bold universal health care plan like Medicare for all — people would be willing to go to the barricades for him.
So, Obama may have to punt. He may have to announce that the country is in crisis and like Lyndon Johnson, he may have to say that he will spend his time trying to fix what’s wrong and leave the politics to others. That will open up an opportunity for people like Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Andrew Cuomo, to name just a few.
Of course, I hope the president weathers the storm and comes up with a credible and progressive program. What he is doing now just isn’t working.
He’s letting his enemies define him.
Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 8/22/11