Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Obama’s Second Term Troubles Have Begun

In the aftermath of President Obama’s now-obvious-to-all sequester overreach–in which he first predicted the end of the world as we know it, then backed away from those claims once the cuts went into effect, then attempted to inflict maximum pain on the American people, and is now blaming the Secret Service for the stupid and unnecessary decision to shut down White House tours–something is changing.

President Obama’s RealClearPolitics.com approval rating is in the 40s. His disapproval rating exceeds his approval rating in three different polls (Fox, McClatchy/Marist, and Quinnipiac). Congressional Democrats are beginning to grouse. And according to a Washington Post story yesterday, Mr. Obama’s approval rating at this early stage in his second term is among the lowest of any president in the post-World War II era.

According to the Washington Post-ABC News poll, half of independents express a negative opinion of the president’s performance; just 44 percent approve.
 A majority of Americans give Obama negative marks on handling the economy. And the president has only a four-percentage-point lead over Republicans when it comes to whom the public trusts more to deal with the economy.

This is clearly not where a president who is less than two months into his second term wants to be. But in some respects, it’s not all that surprising. Mr. Obama, while he won his contest with Governor Romney fairly handily, was not a particularly popular president for most of his first term–and the key elements of his agenda are decidedly unpopular.

It hasn’t helped the president that the transition period was characterized by a fractious debate with Republicans over the so-called fiscal cliff, followed by an equally fractious debate with Republicans over sequestration. The public appears to be tiring of these Obama-manufactured crises. And polling indicates that they are tiring as well of tax increases, which is at the heart of Obama’s economic theory, such as it is. So the president’s standing is fairly weak.

That could of course change; public opinion polls are ephemeral and the currents in politics can shift quickly. That said, I believe that one of the most important political facts of Obama’s second term will be the increasing unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act, which is the crowning domestic achievement of the Obama presidency.

It’s never been popular, even when it passed–and it’s gotten less popular over time. Moreover, it’s noxious effects are only now beginning to be felt–and they’ll get worse, not better, as more and more of this monstrously unworkable plan begins to kick in.

My assumption is that by the middle and end of Obama’s second term, reactionary liberalism, having been tried, will have failed. Badly. At that point the public will turn its lonely eyes to Republicans. They need to be ready. My guess is they will be.