And yet, in poll after poll, around 60 percent of Americans approve or strongly approve of how the president is doing his job. Three quarters of us say we like Obama, including one quarter who disapprove of his policies. So when this personally popular president gets what he wants, why don’t the American people like it so much?
Because what he wants isn’t, I think, what we elected him to do. Little else can explain the disconnect between how the president polls personally, and how he polls on real issues.
We elected Obama because he seems nice, because he’s metro, because he’s got that killer smile, and because he’s so well-liked Over There. Someone, like Hasselhoff, who can run along the beach with other beautiful people and make us feel all tingly inside. What we didn’t elect him to do — and this is the real genius of the American electorate — was to live up to his campaign promises. We understand politicians break their campaign promises; maybe this time we were actively hoping one would.
We wanted somebody to make us seem nicer abroad (although taking it to the point of naivete might be a little much) and to make us feel good about ourselves at home. Mission accomplished and all that. The problem is, between the Republicans’ implosion and Obama’s personal popularity, he’s free to do exactly what he promised us he’d do: spend, spend, spend. And tax, tax, tax. And regulate, regulate, regulate. His only real obstacles are a few conservative Democrats in Congress and those pesky poll numbers.
When Americans tell pollsters they’re not happy with the direction the country is heading, a liberal will tell you it’s because the government isn’t giving them what they want or need. But it could also very well be because the government isn’t helping them to protect what they have, or keeping out of their way as they pursue their goals. President Bush certainly didn’t do those things, and so far neither is President Obama. One saw faith in his administration and his party come crashing down to earth — and then some. The other is still running along the beach with Pamela Anderson.
It hardly seems fair. But in politics, as in Hollywood, little ever is.