Then: JournoList, founded the Washington Post’s own Ezra Klein (who declared Obama’s stump speeches were rhapsodic Sermons from the Mount) promises that anyone who stands in candidate Obama’s way will be smeared as racists.
Now? “One and Done: To be a great president, Obama should not seek reelection in 2012:”
President Obama must decide now how he wants to govern in the two years leading up to the 2012 presidential election.
This is a critical moment for the country. From the faltering economy to the burdensome deficit to our foreign policy struggles, America is suffering a widespread sense of crisis and anxiety about the future. Under these circumstances, Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones.
To that end, we believe Obama should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2012.
If the president goes down the reelection road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock, at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.
We do not come to this conclusion lightly. But it is clear, we believe, that the president has largely lost the consent of the governed. The midterm elections were effectively a referendum on the Obama presidency. And even if it was not an endorsement of a Republican vision for America, the drubbing the Democrats took was certainly a vote of no confidence in Obama and his party. The president has almost no credibility left with Republicans and little with independents.
The best way for him to address both our national challenges and the serious threats to his credibility and stature is to make clear that, for the next two years, he will focus exclusively on the problems we face as Americans, rather than the politics of the moment – or of the 2012 campaign.
Quite simply, given our political divisions and economic problems, governing and campaigning have become incompatible. Obama can and should dispense with the pollsters, the advisers, the consultants and the strategists who dissect all decisions and judgments in terms of their impact on the president’s political prospects.
Obama himself once said to Diane Sawyer: “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” He now has the chance to deliver on that idea.
The Politico, another former bastion of the JournoLista adds:
“People wanted to get rid of Bush in 2004, but they just couldn’t buy into Kerry,” said Colorado-based Democratic consultant Mike Stratton. “So effectively running against a guy who was hugely unpopular was greatly to Obama’s advantage.”
“A ton of people who were for him just hated Bush,” added Jonathan Prince, another veteran Democratic strategist.
Prince suggested that the 2008 race didn’t represent a shift from the red-and-blue trends but reflected the voters’ response to a deeply unpopular president and a lackluster GOP nominee.
“All the anger that built up favored the Democratic side and opportunities opened up that don’t normally happen and shouldn’t happen,” he said.
The three most extraordinary wins came in Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana — none of which had been carried by a Democrat presidential candidate in decades.
Yet, the swing voters who lifted Obama in these states — which are likely to have a combined 39 electoral votes in 2012 — wholeheartedly supported the GOP last week, leading local party officials to warn that Democrats must find a way to appeal to the political center again if they expect to compete there in two years.
“It’ll be more difficult,” conceded Indiana Democratic Chairman Dan Parker, adding that Obama must make progress on job creation and deficit reduction to win back the moderates who fled the party last week.
What worries Parker, though, is the view among some liberals that the party shouldn’t tolerate the sort of centrist Democrats who populate the Hoosier State.
“Does the Democratic Party want to be a progressive party or a majority party?” he asked, lamenting “the vilification of moderate Democrats.”
A little late for that, eh fellas?
Finally, John Podhoretz looks at primary challengers on both sides of aisle, ranging from Eugene McCarthy in ’68, Teddy Kennedy in ’80, to Ronald Reagan in ’76 and Pat Buchanan in ’92 and writes:
It became common in the days following the election for conservatives and Republicans to say that the GOP should consider itself “on probation.” That is certainly true. But viewing the election as a warning shot to Republicans—which, astonishingly, Obama sought to do in his press conference the day after the voting by saying the election was a “message to Republicans” to “focus on our shared responsibilities and work together”—is wrong. The election was a referendum on left-liberal governance. Voters rejected it, and rejected it with even more of a vengeance than Democrats had shown in undertaking it.
That is why it matters just how deep and thoroughgoing the results were. It wasn’t just that voters wanted to punish Obama and the Washington Democrats because the economy was sour, or because they spent too much, or because they didn’t keep their eye on the ball when they took up health care.
Voters wanted to take governing power away from Democrats at all levels before liberals did more damage.
Presidents in political peril have proved capable of winning over parts of the electorate that had rejected them earlier. Nixon received only 43 percent of the vote in 1968 before going on to score 61 percent in 1972; Clinton got 43 percent in 1992 and 49 percent in 1996. Obama is in a better position than either of them because he needs only the voters who voted for him in 2008 to vote for him again in 2012. That is a tall order because of the way independents deserted the Democrats in November. It is not, however, unthinkable.
But what if the disaffection with Obama comes not only from the right, as was the case in this election, but also from his left? That is where a challenge from Russ Feingold or Howard Dean or someone else will be telling. Ever since Obama took office, leftists have issued complaints against him that, to the non-leftist ear, sound insane.
They claim he has been too moderate, too compromising, too much of a technocrat. They say the $863 billion stimulus was too small by half—an assertion impossible to prove, and pointless in any case, since the stimulus that did become law was as large as the political system in Washington controlled entirely by Democrats could stomach. Liberals were and are angry that Obama gave up the so-called public option on health care, when he had no choice but to do so to win Democratic support to get the bill through the Senate.
In point of fact, Obama has done everything in his power to advance the most unshakably leftist agenda since Johnson’s time, and possibly since the days of Franklin Roosevelt—with remarkable results. He should be celebrated by liberals and the left, not criticized by them, and certainly not abandoned by them. If Obama is indeed threatened by a candidate who comes at him from the left and who gains some traction doing so, that will suggest two things. First, that members of his own base are picking up the scent of a loser from him. And second, that many on the left will prefer to abandon a president they should be hailing as a tough-minded hero rather than confront the stark reality that the American electorate got a good look at what the left truly wants this country to become—and said, with a clarion’s clarity, no.
Which the far left is unable to process (call it epistemic closure, to coin a phrase), hence all of the talk of branding, marketing, communication and attacking the voters, rather than confront their own tone-deaf and increasingly sclerotic worldview.
Related: Purge! Purify! Banish heretics to Siberia!