Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New York Times warns Obama of phantom political risk

I'm sure I'm not the only reader who noticed that this article by the Times' Mark Landler about the alleged risks inherent in Obama's post-Labor Day political strategy failed to cite any evidence in support of this thesis:
While Mr. Obama’s partisan jabs appeal to his Democratic base, they may turn off independent voters, who flocked to him in 2008 in part because of his carefully cultivated image as a leader who rises above the partisan fray. With the jobless rate closer to 10 percent than 4 percent, they may start to tune out the president.
The article did show that attacking Republicans for blocking his initiatives may not be enough -- but not that prospective supporters are turned off by his attacks on Republican obstructionism. Landler cited all of  two not-entirely-supportive comments by attendees at Obama appearances in North Carolina. Here they are:.
...Thomas O’Connell, a 20-year-old student at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, said that blaming Congress was not enough. “If he’s going to say the system is broken, he’s got to put forward something of substance himself,” he said.

“We want to stand behind him and support him, but at some point we also want to see forward motion,” said Natalie Hopkins, an administrator in the Guilford County school district.
 The first comment does not make obvious sense, as Obama has put forward a pretty robust set of stimulus proposals.  But both comments seem to indicate that results matter to voters more than the manner of engagement -- as Obama learned from nine months of fruitless conciliation on negotiation on Tea Party terms.  In fact, Obama himself seems at this moment to have read the political landscape for clearly than Landler:
Mr. Obama seemed to recognize the yearning for an end to the rancor. He spoke of his efforts to find common cause with Republicans, telling the crowd in heavily Democratic Asheville, “Some of you have been mad at me for trying too hard to cooperate with them, haven’t you?” And he praised a free trade agreement with South Korea that passed the Senate with Republican support.
Landler's got Obama's own read exactly backwards. Obama seemed to recognize the yearning for an end to failure.  And he's right.  What he needs is a policy win -- by any means he can get it.  And alas, he doesn't just need the optics of a win -- he needs one that despite the GOP's best efforts staves off a recession. Tall order.

1 comment:

  1. Your analysis of the situation and response of some voters reflects a leftish bias, and misses the moderate viewpoint. As a disappointed Obama supporter, I can tell you that his latest policy push doesn't satisfy me. All along I wanted him to stake out the sensible middle ground and use his rhetorical skills to persuade the electorate and their representatives.

    Instead, after a very active first 6 months of his presidency, he disengaged, and we drifted rudderless all the way to the midterm elections and beyond.

    With the election results, which are in large part his fault, he now has a harder time staking out any position. He may be "yearning for an end to failure" but he has been very complicit in that failure.