As he is wont to do, William Galston delivers the bad news to his fellow Democrats. Eyeing last week’s Gallup poll showing that majorities disapprove of Obama’s “accomplishments” (e.g., the bailouts, ObamaCare, the stimulus plan), he writes:
The art of democratic leadership is to mobilize public majorities around measures that promote the general welfare. Judged against that standard, the past two years have been a failure—even if one believes that everything on the Gallup list was necessary and wise.
We will never know whether a different approach would have produced a better result. But a few things are clear:
* The failure of the stimulus to produce a more hopeful job market has cast a pall over everything else.
* The public regards the year spent debating health reform as a diversion from what it thinks should have been a sustained focus on the economy.
* And whatever its economic merits, the failure of the financial rescue to mete out justice to the financial leaders that got us into this mess has outraged the public’s moral sense. …
The bottom line: the majority can neither run on its record nor run away from it.
So that leaves the Democrats with ad hominem attacks, scare-mongering, and slurs on the Tea Party. (You’ll notice that the bogeyman George W. Bush has largely disappeared from the Dems’ rhetoric, since it appears Bush is more popular than Obama in some key swing states.)
Obama declares that the choice is between “hope and fear.” Actually, he’s right, but not in the way he intends. For many voters the hope is that electing conservatives to Congress will slow and reverse the spend-a-thon and focus the peripatetic White House on the issue they care most about — jobs. As for the fear, one suspects the public has grown weary of the host of villains the White House conjures up to deflect attention from its own dismal record.
It’s been two years since Obama articulated his own hopeful vision. Now it’s all about recriminations and finger-pointing. You wonder what his reaction will be when the Bible- and gun-huggers, the stooges of the insurance industry, and the Islamophobes stream to the polls, throw out many Democratic incumbents, and declare Obamanomics kaput. At this point, he’s certainly not acting like a president prepared to take the voters’ message to heart and revise his agenda accordingly.