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Obamas Decline and the Conventional Wisdom
Independents Eye
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Whew! I need to catch my breath. I can’t keep up with the quickly shifting journalistic conventional wisdom.
When Barack Obama was elected President many proclaimed the beginning of a post-partisan society with greater racial understanding. But WAIT (it didn’t work out that way)! In the summer of 2012, many said Obama’s re-election was threatened. But WAIT! That September it was said Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign was dead in the water for every remaining day of the campaign once his remark about 47% of Americans being takers was revealed. But WAIT!
A month later many said Obama could never recover from his first debate with Romney. But WAIT! Many said the GOP’s 2012 national loss at the polls was a rejection of Tea Party conservatism and that America would move to the center. But WAIT! Many said it was certain the GOP would change to survive by relaxing opposition to gay marriage and championing serious immigration reform, and a political “autopsy” by the Republican National Committee agreed. But WAIT!
Many thought it was over for Obama’s second term when he fumbled on Syria, faced bipartisan repudiation of his proposal for military action in Congress, and was upstaged by Russian President Vladimir Putin. But wait! Many said the GOP destroyed its branding and was in freefall when House Tea Party Republicans forced a government shut down and Republican approval numbers plummeted. But WAIT!
Today’s conventional wisdom is that Obama’s second term is virtually over due to his administration’s shockingly poor Obamacare launch, with its failed, sign-up website. It contends he’s in a free fall and can never recover from the fact that he wasn’t accurate in proclaiming that under “Obamacare” no one would lose their insurance or doctor. Look up “Obama Katrina” on Google and you’ll see articles comparing Obama’s Obamacare launch fiasco to Hurricane Katrina, which killed least 1,833 people.
Since I’ve also been sucked into conventional wisdom cyclones -- sucked in after reading everything possible, analyzing independently and having my own perceptions colored by others’ analyses -- I am now almost out of breath. But here are some facts.
Fact: The health care website indeed symbolizes one of the poorly managed program launches in history and will impact historians’ assessment of Obama. Fact: Obama didn’t detail in his assurances how “junk” insurance policies could be cancelled and how policies that didn’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s would become history, so he can be accused of misleading and unpleasantly surprising some voters. Congressional Democrats who stuck their necks out for him now fear a political guillotine in 2014.
Fact: Republicans berating him about the launch and misleading the public have done all they could to stall the program, obstruct it, try to repeal it and routinely mislead the public. Fact: many Presidents have poor or almost disastrous second terms.
NBC News’ First Read gives us some centering: “As NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R) has emailed clients, history shows that it’s difficult for presidents to recover from nosedives like this. And if that’s true, Obama will be a liability in 2014, period. But it will be important to see where Obama’s approval rating is come Spring 2014, assuming the health-care website gets fixed and the Affordable Care Act rollout becomes a distant memory. Barring something unforeseen, these next two months are perhaps the president’s last shot at getting right before the midterms. He needs a working website and a State of the Union that somehow instills some hope that he’s up to the job as a leader. How the public responds will tell us if Obama will be able to recover in time for the midterms.”
Obama has lost some credibility and clout. Early on in his term, many believed Obama would bolster Democrats’ argument that government can efficiently improve lives, but Obamacare has now become an SNL skit. Still, his biggest allies may be his enemies.
The National Journal’s Ron Fournier calls the GOP as “the party of zilch.” He writes: “Rather than be the party of solutions in a gridlocked capital, appealing to a leadership-starved public, the GOP is the party of obstruction, ensuring that its putrid approval ratings nose-dive apace with Obama’s.”
So Obama and the Democrats will look good by comparison. (But WAIT...?)
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He also writes for The Week’s online edition. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at