Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Could He Have Avoided This?

A CNN /Opinion Research Corporation poll released yesterday shows that a majority of Americans wouldn't vote to reelect President Obama. 44% of those surveyed said they would vote to reelect the President, while 52% said they would back someone else. 
 Could Obama have avoided this disenchantment with his presidency? Hard to know, but if he  had been more passionate, less professorial, not so cool and detached, and had had more plain language conversations with ordinary folks in which he admitted that we were in a big mess, not much of which was his fault at the beginning, that no good solutions were available, and that Republicans were making it worse by their total oppositional stance, that we were in for tough times in which the people themselves had to recognize that you can't reduce spending without pain for all, calling the bluff of those who want spending reduced by asking them to propose specific reductions in defense, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid or shut up or at least admit they are willing to hurt poor people but not willing to approve any cuts that reduce their own benefits or raise their taxes, and so on -- maybe that would have helped. He would protest that he did make those points, but I am suggesting he should have made them in Harry Truman, give'm hell fashion.

Obama also has hurt himself by his identification with and protection of banks, insurance and drug companies (see many of my previous blogs for details) and hence is deserving of some of the wrath against Wall Street that people rightly feel.

I suspect, however, that the deeper problem is that too many people are just mad at incumbents because times are tough but want painless solutions without seeing the contradictions in their own thinking and just generally reacting emotionally with rage without reason, and wanting relief without pain, success without sacrifice, and  higher benefits with lower taxes. Hence, we are in for the politics of bombast without specific realistic proposals that are honest about costs and benefits in the style of  George Wallis and Sarah Palin.

Palin was right that this "hop'ey, chang'ey stuff" is not working out so well for us. But neither she nor any other Republican has anything better to offer. But they hope to win on anger that wants those who are in to be out and to replace them with more "hope'y, change'y stuff that has neither the diagnosis nor the prescription to make us well.

Politics is part destiny. He came along at the right time to get elected but became president of a country in tough times, a country whose political apparatus is  sadly dysfunctional, corrupted by money and self-interest, a country that is barely governable, driven by angry partisanship.

I  suspect  that no one could have done much better on the whole than Obama. Even if he had been perfect, it was his destiny to be president during tough times.

And nobody is available -- Republican or Democrat -- who would be likely to do better next time around.

It is not a good time for our country. Short of a profound revolution in the structural deficiencies created by greed and self-interest, the future promises nothing much better.