President Obama is ending a miserable year on a down note.
Public opinion polls show Mr. Obama’s approval ratings at their low and disapproval ratings at their high. He’s being tagged by the elite media as a liar and as having had the Worst Year in Washington. His signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, is a rolling disaster. And the rest of his agenda–on gun control, climate change, immigration, and much else–is dead in the water. As CNN’s John King put it, Obama was “0 for 13” on the policy proposals he advocated at the beginning of the year.
One question, I suppose, is whether 2013 can be written off as simply one bad year–or whether, in fact, the Obama White House will look back to this year as the good old days of the second term.
It’s impossible to know for sure, of course, since politics is rarely linear and events we can’t anticipate are sure to intervene. But all we can do is to assess how things look at any given moment in time–and based on where things now stand, my guess is that 2014 will be even worse for the Obama presidency than has been 2013.
I say that for a couple of reasons. The first is that the issue that has done the most durable damage to the Obama presidency is the Affordable Care Act–and if you believe, as I do, that the problems with it are (a) fundamental and structural and (b) ongoing, then next year will produce yet more problems, more dislocation, more anxiety, and more anger, caused by things like (but not limited to) small business cancellations of health-care plans, “doc shock,” and the coming problems facing the exchange systems in each of our 50 states.
The core problem facing the Obama presidency, then, can’t be fixed simply by personnel changes; it can only be repaired by accepting that the Affordable Care Act is intrinsically defective and therefore needs to be ended. And Mr. Obama will fight to his last breath to keep that from occurring.
The second reason 2014 could well be worse for the president is the mid-term election, which (if history is any guide) will almost surely subtract the number of Democrats in Congress–and which may, in fact, be the second “wave” election to hit Democrats during the Obama years.
With the qualifier that we’re still 11 months away, Republicans right now are relatively well positioned to make gains, and probably significant gains, in both the House and Senate. If that were to occur, it would not only further damage Mr. Obama; it would go some distance toward affirming the narrative that the Obama presidency is deeply injurious to his party and, more broadly, to liberalism.
Perhaps this analysis can be dismissed as biased thinking by a conservative critic. Or perhaps it’s a fair reading of where things stand and where things are headed. We’ll know this time next year. But I suspect that for all his problems this year, it may be viewed in retrospect as (for the second term at least) the land of milk and honey compared to what awaits the man Barbara Walters thought was going to be “the next messiah.”