Was it the blame-gaming — “Bush did it!,” ATMs are at fault, tsunamis are the culprit, no other administration has had such challenges, the euro meltdown is to blame, earthquakes shook our confidence — that finally turned the country off of Obama?
For the last two years, millions of Americans have grown, ever so insidiously, tired of Barack Obama and his administration. The Tea Party brought such frustrations to the fore. And now the debates — and the ability of Romney to show millions that he is a decent, competent alternative to Obama rather than the caricatured greedy white man of Obama’s sleazy ads — are closing the deal.
In the first debate, Romney was not just far better-informed and spoken, but far more likeable. Joe Biden’s frenzied rudeness was the sort of debate performance that mesmerizes one by its very boorishness, eliciting a weird reaction in the room like “Come over and check this out: I can’t believe the Vice president of the United States is trumping The Joker” (after all, the sick Joker is more entertaining that the sober and judicious Batman) — but within hours leaves a bitter aftertaste in the mouth of something along the lines of “Surely, we could have done better than that rude buffoon?”
The election is not over, but it is starting to resemble October 29 or November 1 in 1980, when, after just one debate, the nation at last decided that it really did not like Jimmy Carter very much or what he had done, and discovered that Ronald Reagan was not the mad Dr. Strangelove/Jefferson Davis of the Carter summer television ads. Like Carter, Obama both has no wish to defend his record (who would?) and is just as petulant. In the next three weeks, he has only three hours left to save his presidency.
Do We Remember?
There are lots or reasons why various groups are tiring of Obama. It is not just the economy, but also all the untruths about the economy over the last four years that sounded like daily communiqués from the Ministry of Truth. Do we even remember the brilliant Obama economic A-team, chomping at the bit in December 2008 to get started to pull us into the good times — a Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner (remember, he was the “genius” who almost alone knew how high finance on Wall Street worked and so had to be exempted from cheating on his tax deductions), Christina Romer, Peter Orszag, and, later, Austan Goolsbee, who have now all come and gone.
When was “Recovery Summer”? What were the “shovel-ready jobs” that were “not as … uh … shovel-ready as we expected”? Where went the stimulus? How much are we owed by GM? What happened to the Volt? Where are the “millions of green jobs”? Did the green-shade Joe Biden really go through the stimulus line by line? And was he smirking and guffawing at what he saw?
Do we remember the mad, obscene rantings of the “Truther” Van Jones or the Mao devotee Anita Dunn? How long have Rham Emanuel and Bill Daley been gone? For many, Obama has become one Steven Chu too many.
Feet of Clay
Or maybe Obama’s problem lies with the absurdly high expectations brought about by the faux-Greek columns, vero possumus!, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and the promise to cool the planet and lower the seas — the sort of juvenile giddiness that brings embarrassment when one sobers up?
Did we hear one tingle up the leg or one perfect crease of the pants or one “most brilliant president” too many? When Joe Biden and Harry Reid voiced quasi-racist commentary on Obama’s white blackness, they seemed to voice the liberal tingle that they could both embrace a black man and not embrace a black man, as if voting for Obama gave them exemption from worrying about their own apartheid existences, as cosmic inclusivity allowed private exclusiveness.
Jacksonian without the Jackson
The first time candidate Obama courted rappers, appeared on celebrity TV and radio shows, or hipped it up, it was thought “cool,” a sort of armor that would ensure that the normal political invective bounced off his in-the-know defenses. Now, four years later? We have a sort of Jacksonian White House, but visited by zillionaire entertainers and without the populism. When Obama leaves Netanyahu cooling his heels to hang with Jay-Z, Beyoncé, or the ladies of The View, or flies to Vegas on news that our ambassador has been murdered, it is either crass or juvenile or both. How, millions of Americans are starting to ask, did this man become president? With well over 400 rounds of golf and 200 fundraisers under his belt, no wonder Mr. Obama had to skip the national security briefings and the debate prep — what a “drag” they were.
A Bright and Shining Lie?
The sources of discontent are growing across the spectrum. Perhaps the disgruntled Left saw that promises about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” gay marriage, and amnesty only were kept late in Obama’s tenure when he had lost independents and needed, cynically, to rev up his base. Or was it that what in 2008 had come across as teleprompted eloquence, by 2011 was the same old monotonous and hackneyed “Make no mistake about!” and “Let me be perfectly clear!”?
Liberals used to go gaga over the man who promised that Guantanamo and renditions would be part of our distant criminal past, only to gag that he has embraced and expanded almost every one of the Bush-Cheney protocols that he once demagogued. Obama even recruited Yale Law Dean Harold Koh, who used to sue the government on behalf of Guantanamo detainees, to write surreal briefs explaining why stepped-up Predator missions can quite legally vaporize American citizens suspected of terrorism, and why American planes dropping bombs over a foreign country do not constitute warlike acts. A Yale Law dean who does that is like the proverbial dog walking on two legs, eliciting wonder not just that it is done, but why it is even attempted.
The once green Leftist who promised to bankrupt coal and whose energy secretary designate bragged about sending gas prices up to the “levels in Europe” now runs ads accusing Romney of being too hard on the coal industry, and brags that private energy companies fracked and horizontally drilled on private land to increase the nation’s fossil-fuel production. Who could believe that message of “vote for me because I couldn’t quite stop all the drilling and so now we have more domestic oil and gas than ever”?
Calling Dr. Freud
I think a growing number of Americans slowly grasped that with Obama, the best guide to his character is what is sometimes known as psychological projection — or the syndrome in which those unsure of themselves seek to massage their own natural but bothersome impulses by ascribing them to others, almost always in a negative context. The vicarious president who gave us “get in their faces,” “bring a gun to a knife fight,” and “punish our enemies”; ridiculed the Special Olympics; slurred millions of doctors with accusations that they like to amputate for profit; and smeared, as fat cats, the one-percent, corporate jet owners, and Vegas jet-setters (his own generous Wall Street donors) of course also preached about the need for a new bipartisanship and civility. Like a moth to a light bulb, Obama was drawn to swanky golf resorts, Vegas, and vacations on Martha’s Vineyard of the sort he dismissed as the haunts of the one percent. When the president struggles to repress yet another appetite, we can be assured that he will attribute such a character flaw to others.
The Chicago Way
Of course, independents are tired of the scandals. One Fast and Furious, Secret Service debacle, or GSA mess is tolerable. But bit by bit the mosaic of a fast and loose Chicago way of fixing things was built from one too many scandalous tesserae — like the Blago mess, the wind and solar con, and now the Libyan cover-up.
The undecideds also are starting to see that while every recession has a recovery, it was needlessly prolonged in the case of Obama, due to his “never let a crisis go to waste” obsessions with socializing health care, taking over unionized bankrupt companies, and expanding food stamps, unemployment, and disability insurance. It took many four years to figure out that for Barack Obama, the need to transform America into some weird version of Greece or Italy trumped any concern about getting millions back to work and the economy going again. Obama’s prime impulse was not restoring lost income, jobs, and net worth, but seeking to ensure the wealthy did not prosper, even if that meant the far more numerous poor did not either. Stagnant equality was his aim.
Tear Us Apart
I know many people — including liberals — who voted for Obama on his promises of racial healing and will vote against him precisely because he amplified racial divides for his own political purposes. Again, one Cambridge police incident or Trayvon Martin flip comment would have been the normal stuff of presidential gaffes. But the fake-accented sermons to black audiences, the “punish our enemies” call to arms to Hispanics, the various racially targeted Obama reelection groups (using “we got the president’s back” as their mottoes as if a deranged white person hourly were about to dry gulch the president without ranks of such self-appointed African-American or Hispanic bodyguards) became predictable. Only Obama could have brought out the worst side of a James Earl Jones, Chris Rock, and Morgan Freeman to accuse others of racism to divert attention away from Obama’s failure. Once such celebrities transcended race, now Obama-fed racialism has engulfed them.
At some point, Eric Holder’s various delusions (e.g., “cowards,” racism behind the Fast and Furious investigations, “my people,” etc.), Hilda Solis’s videos appealing to illegal aliens to call in about mean employers, and the Van Jones rants seemed like sound bites out of the Race / Class / Gender gut course in the university rather than the emanating from the U.S. government.
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid?
More than eight percent unemployment for 42 months could be an artifact. Maybe anemic below-two-percent economic growth happens. Five trillion dollars in new debt can be contextualized. Nearly fifty million on food stamps is regrettable. But after a while, they all become force multipliers of each other — cementing the notion that Obama is largely a hothouse potted plant who has not a clue about what drives business, or why employers hire and fire, or how oil and gas fuel the U.S. economy. The only mystery is whether Obama sought to improve the economy but utterly failed — or if he had some vague idea that printing money, unsustainable borrowing, out-of-control spending, and demonizing the successful might create a gorge-the-beast moment: only then might higher taxes be the only way to prevent fiscal collapse while the new entitlements would hook so many that the mere thought of their curtailment might prove impossible.
Enough Is Enough
Add all this up, and millions of voters — quietly, on their own, without much communication — are becoming wearied by Obama, in a way that is quite miraculous. They are coming to the conclusion not just that it is now OK to vote against Obama, but that even if it is not politically correct, they don’t much care anymore.
Incumbents should have all sorts of advantages. This year there is no Ross Perot on the ballot to siphon off votes from a President George H.W. Bush. The media openly slants its news to save Obama. Libya has gained none of melodramatic hourly coverage of the Iranian hostage crisis that finally did in Jimmy Carter pontificating from the Rose Garden. George H.W. Bush was destroyed by “it’s the economy, stupid” when unemployment and GDP growth were far better than today. George W. Bush almost lost the 2004 election on the charge of a “jobless recovery” when the unemployment rate was almost three points lower than it is today. Enough said.
Money can be printed. Official stats can be massaged. The president can dole out pork. The Federal Reserve can print money. Europe can, too. Obama’s unusual heritage makes Americans proud of their country. If some wished to prove that they were not racist in 2008 by voting for Obama, in 2012 they fear they will be condemned as racist for not voting to reelect him.
Yet add all of that up, and here we are three weeks before the election with Romney holding a slight lead in polls that are often suspect.
In other words, millions are feeling liberated and are starting to feel that they have simply had enough of this bunch. In short, it is becoming OK to vote “No, you can’t!”