Have you seen it? Have you seen friends who were diehard Obama supporters in November slowly having doubts? Have you seen moderates, who voted for a Democrat for the first time ever, now wondering what that vote has brought us?
I have. It seems every day, I talk to another friend or family member who has growing seeds of doubt in the Obama Administration. The reason for their change of heart is never because Mr. Obama has done anything wrong; they still love him. But they feel the wheels of the political machine have smashed the central ideals of the Obama campaign.
The reality is that you are seeing the real Barack Obama.
This is the true, honest Barack Obama. A pure bred liberal. One who believes in more central control. A man who believes higher taxes and more spending will bring prosperity. Someone who believes that deficits are a problem for another day. It doesn’t mean Mr. Obama is not a good or honest man; it just means that he is a good and honest liberal man.
The mainstream media is still in a fog. Yesterday MSNBC ran a headline stating that Mr. Obama is at all-time highs in popularity. Well, he is in only his 6th week in office; did you expect the honeymoon to end so soon? Also, the media is not seeing this small shift in the public. The public wants (or is the better word hopes?) Mr. Obama to succeed. But they are losing faith in the proposals as details become available. And we are starting to see a slow downward trend in Obama’s approval ratings, which are now below 60% in the Realclearpolitics averaged polling data. And with unemployment now hitting 8.1%, whether Obama’s fault or not, the dissastisfaction is bound to grow.
And that is really what the public support hinges on right now. They want to believe in something, and Mr. Obama is the only game in town. The economy appears to be crashing all around us. Unemployment hit a new high. The stock market is back to 1997 LEVELS! I never would have believed five years ago that GM would be at $2 and on the verge of bankruptcy, and Citibank would be a penny stock.
And wheat is the political response to all this? The Democratic Party looks pathetic, and the Republicans look even worse. There is no one else to turn to. But at the same time, the policies that this administration is putting forth is clearly the most radical since the New Deal; certainly it is even more big government than Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. This is not what Mr. Obama promised during the campaign. He was a moderate that was going to change Washington. Well, he is changing Washington, but changing it to a time three or four decades ago, when government supposedly had the answer for everything.
Look at the home foreclosure plan. In general, this is something I support. I think you must stabilize the housing markets if you have any hope of stabilizing banks and the credit markets. And I think the public wants a plan to solve this problem. But look at the polling. CNN has a poll from Quinniapac showing that 64% think the current plan is unfair; that is a supermajority. At the same time, 55% support the plan. Schizophrenic, you say? Not at all. People don’t believe in the plan intellectually, but in their heart they want and hope that some plan will work. Intellectually, Mr. Obama is losing the public.
The Rasmussen Presidential Approval Index shows something similar. Mr. Obama started in the low 40s at the time of the inauguration…and is around the same level now. But his negatives slowly are rising. Admittedly, this is largely because of defecting moderates and Republicans…but Mr. Obama needs those people if he wants to truly carry out a liberal mandate. Also, the public is wary of new plans from Mr. Obama. 49% of people feel that health care reform should be delayed until our immediate problems are solved. That is a large number of people that are very anxious about spending another trillion dollars when we are already digging our budget hole deeper. I know that Ted Kennedy desperately wants a solution, but that is not a good enough reason to risk the economic health of the country
Additionally, the public is starting to the see the reality the Obama is unlikely to change much in Washington. He has been a traditional politician, so far, serving his own supporters and interests. Just like Bush, Obama is favoring his big money donors, like in selecting members of his Economic Recovery Advisory Board. And of course, there is the increased scrutiny on pork and earmarks, which even his own party is fighting him on. On Friday, the Senate had to withhold voting on a budget bill; why? Not because of Obama, but because of Republicans and Moderate Democrats. Again, Obama has not been the agent of change.
Maybe in the grand scale of things, here is the larger problem. The country, despite what others tell you, is still a center to center-right nation. A Rasmussen poll last December asked this question: “Which theory of government do you favor — concentration of power in the federal government or concentration of power in the state government?”; basically, a Reagan v. Obama discussion. About six out of ten favored states rights; Reagan era thinking. Nobody is saying the public is looking for large scale tax cuts and government cuts, but they aren’t looking for grand scale enlargement of the federal government either.
Even the media, which I am more than happy to bash, is starting to turn. Conservatives, from David Brooks to Stuart Taylor, who had at the very least some faith in Obama, are starting to change their minds. Paul Krugman’s Editorial on Friday blasts the Obama-Geithner plan on banks. The Times of London has a piece basically saying Obama is gambling the entire future of the nation. Even Steve Forbes is attacking Obama, not because he is a liberal per se, but because he is too much like Bush! And while Democratic leaders such as John Kerry blast banks for ‘partying’ with the people’s money, Congress and the President are doing the same in the halls of Washington. You know it is bad when Whoopi Goldberg is ranting about increased taxes.
I take it as one clear sign that the Obama side is losing the ideological fight among the public that they are trying to change the subject, a classic old political move. In past weeks, the President, his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, as well as his spokesman Robert Gibbs have all attacked numerous media personalities, from CNBC’s Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli, to of course the much beloved/hated Rush Limbaugh. One has to wonder why waste their time? They are not wasting their time. This is a calculated political move to distract people from focusing on the central issues of the day, right now being the budget and the foreclosure plan. Jim Cramer, who responded to the White House on Thursday, has the most important point. Cramer admits he is an Obama supporter, but also says that the liberal shift of his policies are making it hard for him to support him. And that, in general, is the point. Even Obama supporters have been turned off by the Obama radicalism.
The public, all apologies to Rush, wants Obama to succeed. They need someone to succeed. In their hearts, they want someone, anyone, to lead them out of the perceived darkness of this recession. And Mr. Obama is the only viable choice right now. But there is a disconnect starting, and it is a cautionary tale for the President. Hearts are one thing, and minds are another. And Mr. Obama’s radical polices are starting to lose the intellectuals among us…eventually, the hearts will follow as well.
UPDATE: Howard Fineman of Newsweek has an article this week called ‘A Turning Tide‘…think he stole it from me? Don’t worry, Howard, mimicry is just another form of flattery. Just make sure who wrote it first.