I know people who love Barack Obama. Literally love him; adoration does not do justice to their emotional attachment to the man. Some others I know merely like him and would vote for him again. I count myself among those who like him a little bit, but not a lot, and less as time goes by. I did not vote for him, but neither did I like who I did vote for, and I was pleased to be bidding the feckless incumbent godspeed. I actually thought Obama was going to be OK, wrong about most things but nondestructive, perhaps a bit Clinton-like, and I freely confess to having felt the occasional frisson of intrigue at the prospect of this exotic, intelligent, history-busting man in the White House. We've survived bad presidents, surely we can survive this guy. Better speeches, anyway.
Jeez, what a disappointment.
This article is not going to suggest why anyone should feel the way I do about him, or argue policy. Time for that as November approaches and voters have their opportunity to apply necessary correctives, a process which may have already begun. Instead, I am going to suggest why he is the way he is, why he is doing what he is doing. I think I know.
We are experiencing a President who has not enacted or expressed a single popular policy. If I were arguing the merits of his presidency, I would argue that there are good reason for their lack of public approval. They fall on a continuum that starts on the top end with "foolish" and decline through "stupefying" all the way to "bad beyond the power of conventional English to express." I started to make a list of failures and failures-in-waiting, but it threatened to tilt this article towards the merits of his presidency, rather than the why of the thing.
So let me come at it from a different direction: Consider the ohmygawd plummeting of the President's popularity. This guy came in riding an incredible wave of goodwill and affection and national pride (and, as noted, even some amour), but after only a year his postives and negatives have entirely switched polarity. Think about that -- one year and we've gone way past buyer's remorse all the way to buyer's freakin' grief. The man has single-handedly created a new opposition grassroots political movement. I guess maybe he is a good community organizer, after all. (He did have some help from the dithering Republicans) My unscientific evidence of his striking decline in public esteem is that I no longer see the same Obama-love on Facebook that I saw in 2009.
I am not one who believes that leaders should pay particular heed to poll numbers. Leaders are supposed to lead. The fact that a very large chunk of the American Center, which is a very large chunk of the public generally, is appalled nor only by almost everything he has done, but also by how he has done it and his attitude about the whole thing -- is not necessarily a reason for him to do things any differently. There is even a kind of bravery about his dismissal of public opinion, which is why I like him a little bit.
But it isn't just him. He's taking the Democratic Party -- or at least those impressive Democratic congressional majorities -- down with him. Some of those Democrats are already gone, many more will be gone come November. I don't have a firm notion of whether the Republicans will gain control of anything, but it isn't going to be pretty for many of those who have done what the President has asked them to do. As for 2012, I suspect that the more people see of this President, the less they are going to like his policies and -- you can already see it starting to happen -- they more they are going to understand that he's not really that good a guy. Polls can change overnight, but unless the Republicans nominate Sarah Palin or other lightweight -- of which they are entirely capable -- Obama will gain the additional historical distinction of being the first one-term black president in the nation's history.
If you're a POTUS supporter, you may be preparing to cancel your subscription. OK, sorry, don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But I warn you -- I am actually about to get to the point.
This serious prospect of electoral disaster -- a swing in the electorate that could stay swung for years -- brings us back to the question: Why is he behaving in this way? Why is he advancing policies that threaten to guarantee his place among American presidents alongside Jimmy Carter, Warren G. Harding, and Andrew Johnson? Doesn't he at least care about re-election? In the short run, doesn't he care about maintaining Democratic majorities in Congress?
Well, no. No, he doesn't. And I have a hunch why.
Part 2 will appear later this week.