Back to Earth

Can Obama overcome post-election disappointment?

Four years ago this week, a young and inspirational senator who promised to turn history's page swept the Iowa caucuses and began his irresistible rise to the White House.

Barack Obama was unlike any candidate the country had seen before. More than a mere politician, he became a cultural icon, "the biggest celebrity in the world," as a John McCain ad accurately if mischievously described him. He was the object of near adoration among the young, launching what often felt like a religious revival. Artists poured out musical compositions devoted to his victory in a rich variety of forms, from reggae and hip-hop to the Celtic folk song. (My personal favorite: "There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama.") Electoral contests rarely hold out the possibility of making all things new, but Obama's supporters in large numbers fervently believed that 2008 was exactly such a campaign.

As the attention of the politically minded has focused on the rather more down-to-earth contests in Iowa and New Hampshire that will help determine which Republican will face Obama in November, let us ponder what the coming year will bring for someone who must now seek re-election as a mere mortal.

Obama's largest problem is not the daunting list of difficulties that have left the country understandably dispirited: the continuing sluggishness of the economy, the broken political culture of Washington, the anxiety over America's future power and prosperity.

On each of these matters, Obama has plausible answers and, judging by improvements in his poll ratings since September, he has made headway in getting the country to accept them.

Most Americans still believe that Obama inherited rather than caused the economic turmoil. Barring another crisis in Europe, there is a decent chance of somewhat better times by Election Day. Obama's fall offensive against Republicans in Congress has paid dividends. Voters seem inclined to blame Washington's dysfunction on the GOP, not on a president they still rather like. Most also think Obama's foreign policy has put the nation on a steadier course. To the extent that bellicosity from the Republicans -- notably from Mitt Romney -- portends a return to George W. Bush's foreign policy, Obama will enjoy an advantage. Ron Paul's strength in Iowa and New Hampshire suggests that there are even Republicans who are exhausted with foreign military adventures.

For all these reasons, Democrats are far more bullish on the president's re-election chances than they were even a few months ago, and for what it's worth, I put the odds in his favor. Yet the threat that should most concern Obama may not be any of the particulars that usually decide elections but the inevitable clash between the extravagant hopes of 2008 and the messy reality of 2012.

In traveling around Iowa and New Hampshire over the last few weeks, I have been struck by the number of Democrats and independents who still more or less want Obama to win and deeply fear the consequences of a government dominated by Republicans. But having made this clear, they then bring up the ways in which they cannot summon the emotions on Obama's behalf this year that they felt the first time around.

Some point to disappointment over his failure to confront the Republicans early enough and hard enough. How, they ask, could Obama possibly have expected cooperation from conservatives? Others are frustrated that he couldn't bring Washington together, as he said he would. Still others point to real Obama achievements, including the stimulus and especially the health care law, and ask why he was unable to sell their merits to a majority of the electorate. And then there are those who wonder why the malefactors of finance have faced so little accountability.

Few of these voters would ever support a Republican, and most will turn out dutifully for Obama again. But a president who won election with 52.9 percent of the vote does not have a lot of margin. He needs to worry not just about issues but also about the spirit and morale of his supporters. In their jaunty song on Obama's behalf four years ago, the alternative reggae band Michael Franti & Spearhead promised a country that would "soar through the sky like an eagle" and saw Obama as "seeking finds of a new light."

These are not the standards of normal politics. Can voters who supported someone as a transcendent figure re-elect him as a normal, if resilient, political leader? This is Obama's challenge. 

(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

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Take a look at the picture at the posting of this article, of the young people in the crowd before Obama, bring it up at 200% and ask yourself could any of the GOP in Iowa get such a crowd reaction?  .. w/o TelePrompTer too.. game,set, match..

The enthusiasm was for an icon, an imaginary person.  That image didn't come to life; instead, it soon began to look like what the guy standing behind it had been all along - a run-of-the-mill politician.  He seems to have been a smart enough administrator, which is about the best we get these days.  But that's nothing to get excited about.  If he wins again, it will be due to the usual advantage of the incumbent, to fear of a Republican party that's become something to be afraid of, and to his not yet having fallen on his face.

Hopefully the coming campaign will stoke the fire in his belly and rally his supporters to reject the mundane and deceitful republicans and tea baggers. We need an actual new day in America, one that offers something for everyone's success and advancement. We do not need more of the downer syndrome we have felt in the last year nor any more of the party of 'no.' Now is the time turn up the rhetoric and political heat, now is the time for the 99% to be seen and heard.

Back To Earth, I like that a statement all in its on.

Most of the Tea Party thar helped Obama into Office, will not this time, I kind of have to say its not all Obama's fault, but boy oh boy what a waiste of 2000 pages of a Health Care Reform. Thats what brought the end of Obama for the 2012 Elections.

As I travel the internet to Iowa for the 2012 Elections bring forwaed a Interface in and for Michele Bachmann. Why well you will just have to go to http://www.toptentogo.mysite.com  and look at the blog forum to see why a simple statement of truth, is being heard.

 

  • Come along Michele Bachmann Fans join me in Iowa then South Carolina on the Internet type in TV News For Iowa, dont just Vote help bring forward the largest Internet Interface In and for Michele Bachmann.The catch phrase created is /Michele Bachmann For President / byMassingale-Michele Bachmann First Lady President Of The United StatesThis message is brought to you byWe The Little People The Voice Of America

 

As A Tea Party American who helped President Obama into Office, the task is on...

The guys had their chance for 200 years,well we are not impressed with the last 10...

This message is brought to you by

We The Little People The Voice Of America

Back To Earth That so cool I wish I thought of it.

 

I really need to proof read....ahhhh !

Henry Massingale, the unspoken take away from the Iowa caucus results is that Bachmann's 5% is a reflection that The Grand Old Party is run by a bunch of not so grand old men who won't go for a woman. And she is the only caucus candidate that doesn't have a sackful of garbage tp carry around and was born in Iowa too. The GOP just told the women of USA .. get lost.

 

E.J. Dionne poses the exactly right question for Obama: “Can voters who supported someone as a transcendent figure re-elect him as a normal, if resilient, political leader?”

And, despite the reality that our never quite realized political ideal is no longer “one person, one vote”, but (as Joe Holland suggests in his excellent introduction to Angus Sibley's The “Poisoned Spring” of Economic Liberalism) “one dollar, one vote”, I’m persuaded by the logic outlined in Dionne’s article that the answer to his question will probably be “Yes” – but by a very narrow margin, and only if (1) the Republican candidate after his nomination doesn’t find a way to put enough distance between himself and the tea-partyesque extremes he courted to get his party’s nomination; (2) Obama finds a way to refocus the anger of the millions who have been too long unemployed and underemployed  and the millions who have lost or nearly lost their homes; and (3), if none of dangerous bombs lying around, all on the edge of detonation, do not explode before the election, most notably:

·       The global economy

·       The “global flash points” most likely to affect American politics; eg, Iran, Pakistan, Palestine, Taiwan, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya

·       A major destructive act of terrorism against Americans at home or abroad.

Thanks to the Supreme Court decision on campaign funding, the 2012 campaign will see an infusion of right-wing Big Money unparalleled in history. What the unregulated super funds did to Gingrich in Iowa can, of course, be seen as “poetic justice”, but the same power on steroids will be unleashed on Obama. If any of the variables noted above break the wrong way, and the odds are at least one will, being “normal, if resilient” and not Republican will not cut it.

Obama needs an “overarching vision” he has yet to articulate to provide some insulation from adverse developments that are inevitable in a campaign; to change the frame of reference for those ordinary people badly hurt by an economic disaster in which Democrats were more than a little complicit; and to provide at least some of the intellectual excitement that energized his 2008 election.

I think such a theme that readily distills from Obama’s best speeches touching on the economy can be summed up in the term “Economic Democracy”. On several occasions he walked right up to the idea, but with out formally embracing it, or expanding on how he would achieve it other than through good will. Economic Democracy is to be sure a term a bit too opaque for any one not already caught up in the idea. But gifted writers and thinkers – notably including Obama himself -- drawn to the theme would have no problem creating what T.S. Elliot called the “objective correlative”.

Polls over the last decade have increasingly and repeatedly indicated that numbers approaching 80% feel that economic decisions in America are made for the rich by the rich and their wannabe flunkies in government and the various agencies and organizations responsible for national economic decision making. Just a quick look at the composition of those bodies and at who got what out of the nation’s economic pie over the last 50 years confirms the majority’s gut instincts.

All that remains is to show people that if several existing economic decision making structures were modified a bit, all of the economic stake holders in our society would begin to have what they lack now: A meaningful voice in the economic decisions most vital to them on a day-to-day basis. The economic decision making structures in America could resume a democratic evolution that has been artificially stunted since the early to mid nineteenth century.

However manifestly imperfect and incomplete, the United States has achieved through a very painful process of trial and error, a degree of political and social democracy that is the envy of the planet. “Democracy” is of its nature a never completed process – what we can call progress, just let’s us see what is next to be done -- but arguably there is no country as ethnically, racially, ideologically, and religiously as diverse as the US that has evolved as much in the political and social realms. In the realm of economic democracy, however, we run at the rear of the pack among developed western nations. Indeed in that arena, we are now regressing, and placing painfully achieved progress in the political and social realms at risk.

An Obama who wanted to address that problem as the focus of his presidency would revitalize his political life. More importantly, he would revitalize the nation’s political life. Nothing says you can’t be “normal”, “resilient” and help people see the possibility of a realistic and Earth-bound, but better, if infinitely far from perfect, life.       

 

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About the Author

E. J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury Press).