If four years ago, Barack Obama was the magnetic force around which Democrats rallied, today the relationship between the president and his party appears to be a bit cooler. The president still has his idolaters and they will be conspicuous in Charlotte this week. But, as Politico reports today, Democratic officeholders and many party activists regard the man whose re-election is the centerpiece of their efforts this year as a distant and somewhat aloof leader. While his current political strategy appears to be in tune with others on his ticket in terms of class warfare and demonizing the Republicans, they are keenly aware that he regards himself more as a “party of one” than the ringleader of a coalition. More interested in branding himself as above politics, he remains “oddly unenthusiastic about other Democrats.”
That has proven sufficient to create enough disgruntled sources for a piece that reinforces the already widespread impression about the president’s arrogance. Though rank and file voters may not care much about his attitude, those who have been asked to carry the water for the White House in Congress and vote for unpopular measures like the stimulus boondoggle or ObamaCare resent it. This has been a White House that loves to play favorites when it comes to the political fortunes of his party members. Yet they have little choice but to swallow his arrogance. They must fight for him or find themselves swamped by another Tea Party tide, as was the case in 2010.
Complaints about the White House are a perennial of electoral politics and have been heard every four years no matter which party is in power. But Obama’s behavior seems to be a particularly egregious example of a man at the top acquiring an “Après moi, le deluge,” outlook on his followers. He has satisfied some of his party’s key constituencies, especially those on the left, with his stands on gay marriage, oil pipelines, cap and trade and other environmental extremism as well as his executive order preventing the enforcement of immigration laws. But, as Politico puts it: “his allies say his timing on such issues suits his own needs, not those of the party.” Obama’s fealty to liberal ideology on those issues has helped his own fundraising but often left Democrats outside of deep blue enclaves on both coasts in a difficult position.
That hasn’t created a strong bond between the president and Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate. Reportedly, the president is as sick of House Leader Nancy Pelosi as the Republicans but he appears to respect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid because he doesn’t whine as much as the former speaker. However, Democrats know they have to put their resentments aside in the next two months. The only way to ensure that the Democrats hold onto the Senate and not lose more ground in the House is a Barack Obama victory in November. For these next few days and the fall campaign to follow, the backbiting will cease, as Democrats will extol the president’s virtues though without getting much love in return.
But should he prevail, expect these petty resentments to play a not-unimportant role in the four years that will follow. Second terms are always unpleasant affairs in which party loyalty to a lame duck wears thin. The simmering anger about the president’s arrogance will, no doubt, be vented as investigations into White House security leaks, “Fast and Furious” and other scandals to come, increase.