In a fascinating interview with Robert Costa, Democratic pollster and analyst Pat Caddell zeroes in on the Democrats’ impending doom (“the general outcome is baked”) and on Obama’s failure to live up to expectations (“The killer in American politics is disappointment. When you are elected on expectations, and you fail to meet them, your decline steepens”). But his most cogent analysis focuses on Obama’s base. He writes:
The people who own the party — George Soros, the Center for American Progress, the public-employee union bosses, rich folks flying private jets to “ideas festivals” in Aspen — they’re Obama’s base.
Yowser. He omitted only the liberal media, but I suppose they too — along with young people, old people, Hispanics, working- and middle-class whites, and even 42 percent of Jews — have grown disillusioned as well.
It is debatable whether the puny base is the result of Obama’s extreme agenda or the reason it is so extreme. If you believe the former, Obama has traveled so far left that he’s lost virtually everyone else in the Democratic coalition and turned off independents as well. But if you follow Caddell’s implication (that this is the group that “owns” the party), Obama takes these steps because that’s what his core constituency wants. Why persist in supporting the repeal of the Bush tax cuts? These groups wouldn’t accept anything less. Why install controversial figures by recess appointment (e.g. Craig Becker, Donald Berwick)? Well, these are the sorts of appointees that give his “base” reassurance. Why continue to push climate change regulation and anti-business legislation in the midst of a recession? You got it — give the base what it wants.
Both phenomena are likely at work. Obama is inclined to go left. He thereby withers his base, increasing the clout of these slivers of the electorate. And he feels compelled to keep them happy, given that his political standing is so fragile.
Obama now is truly in a tough spot, one of his own making, I will grant you. Does he reposition to try to recapture his lost supporters, or stick with the grab bag of interest groups that encourage his most destructive inclinations? Hard to say. At this point, I would wager that not even Obama or his closest advisers have figured out what to do.