Skip to comments.Obama Dragged Down by Chaos at Home and Abroad, not by the Economy
Posted on 07/22/2014 4:08:21 AM PDT by Kaslin
"Why do you think President Obama's job rating is falling, even though the economy is recovering?" the interviewer asked.
It's a fair question, even though the economy declined 2.9 percent in the first quarter, even though most jobs created in June were part-time, and even though labor force participation remains low.
The fact is that the economy is growing, however slowly; jobs are being created, and the unemployment rate is heading down toward what economists consider full employment. And still the president's job rating languishes.
What's wrong with the question is an assumption embedded within it, that what voters seek most from government and political officeholders is economic growth. I think there's something they value even more: the maintenance of order.
This isn't what I was taught in political science classes. Political scientists who had grown up in the 1930s' Depression taught that politics was about "who gets what, when and how."
Operating on that assumption, political scientists developed rules that explained past election outcomes as a function of economic variables -- how much the economy grew in the second quarter of the election year, for example.
Those rules generally worked pretty well at predicting future elections -- until they didn't.
What they don't explain very well are the political upheavals that come when voters perceive that the nation and the world are in disarray. Americans, blessed with a mostly happy history, tend to take fundamental order for granted. They recoil and rebel when things spin out of control.
Example: The political scientists taught that the big shift toward Democrats in 1874 was a response to the financial panic of 1873. Sort of like the Great Depression.
But further study convinces me it was a rebellion against Ulysses Grant's military occupation of the South to protect blacks' rights. Voters tired of violence voted for the anti-black Democrats, who held House majorities for 14 of the next 20 years and won the popular vote for president in five of six presidential elections in those years.
Or consider Republicans' "back to normalcy" victory in 1920. This was a response to disorder at home (dizzying inflation and depression, waves of strikes, terrorist bombings) and abroad (Communist revolutions, continued fighting in Russia and the Middle East, rejection of Woodrow Wilson's League of Nations).
Closer to our times, Jimmy Carter was rejected in 1980 as the nation faced not only stagflation (inflation-plus-recession) at home and but also an "arc of instability" abroad.
Americans, unlike voters in many other countries, demand the maintenance of order in the world as well in their own nation. From the early days of the republic, there has been an unspoken awareness that what happens in the world affects their own lives.
In the 19th century, American merchants went out into the Mediterranean, American whalers to the Pacific, American missionaries to China and the Middle East.
American troops followed. The Navy and Marines went after the Barbary pirates on the shores of Tripoli. American gunboats opened Japan to the world in 1854 and were stationed on rivers in China from the 1840s to the 1930s.
Which brings us to today. Many things seem to be spinning out of control. Important government agencies are malfunctioning -- the Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Affairs. Obamacare is producing higher health care premiums and is on track to deliver more.
Tens of thousands of underage and some not-so-underage Central American illegal immigrants are streaming across the Rio Grande, and the government is flying them to parts unknown -- and sending 38 back to their home countries.
Abroad things are even worse. In Syria there is violent civil war, and next door in Iraq terrorists are proclaiming a caliphate. Israel has been forced to launch a ground attack on the terrorist Hamas regime in Gaza.
A Malaysian airliner cruising at 33,000 feet over Ukraine has been brought down by a rocket, probably by thugs armed by Vladimir Putin's Russia.
The president, in-between fundraisers, has time for a photo-op playing pool in Colorado, but not for one on the border. He has time for only two sentences on the airliner shoot-down before a photo-op and two more fundraisers. First things first.
Not everything spinning out of control is the president's fault. But his responses so far have confirmed voters' sense that the nation and the world are in disarray.
This, not economic sluggishness, is why he and his party are in trouble.
Most of it is though
Since I have this dreadful commute now, and I really can’t take Mark Levin (I love the guy, but he makes me crazed) I’ve been listening to the re-run of Michael Smerconish (sp?) on sirius POTUS channel.
He’s really pretty much an idiot, but I thought he made almost a good point yesterday. He said that the polls show that people disapprove of Obama’s handling of foreign affairs, but yet if given a choice they would chose to do, or not do, what Obama is doing or not doing.
Now, I did not hear the whole segment, so I’m not sure where he ended up going with it, but it seems to me the big problem people are starting to have with Obama is that he just doesn’t seem to care, at all, about anything.
And you know, I don’t think he does.
I am not sure I buy this hypothesis.
In modern times Eisenhower gave his eight years of splendid order and we elected Kennedy who got into office deploring the economy and debunking the "order."
In 1968, after Johnson, we had extreme disorder and the electorate went for the other party and elected Nixon - A point for Barone.
In '76 we had reasonable order but the country switched to the other party and elected Jimmy Carter. In 1980, Jimmy Carter had produced a certain level of disorder and an extreme level of economic deterioration, the country switched parties.
Ronald Reagan gave us order and economic growth and the country stayed with his successor after eight years-the economy favored the incumbents and they were rewarded. After four more years in 1992, the economy was in fact quite good but Clinton was elected running against the economy-but by a minority of the voters. Was his election the result of an absence of order? Hardly. It was either the result of a perception of a weak economy or the third-party candidacy of Ross Perot.
Clinton left the country in reasonable order but his administration was in extreme disorder, nevertheless, his party's candidate won a majority of the votes but not enough to prevail in the electoral college.
During the first four years of George Bush the country sustained the shock of the attack on 9/11 yet George Bush was elected despite that shock, and problems with a war in Iraq, as well as the war in Afghanistan. How can one assess the effect of "disorder" on these elections?
Barack Obama was elected in a time of massive economic shock, economic disorder, and wars abroad so was it disorder or the economy the put Obama in office? The world did not get much more orderly and the economy did not much improved but Obama was reelected in 2008. Why? In each one of these elections one can abandon the question was it the "economy or order" and ask, what was the perception in the electorate which was created by the media?
1960, the media created the impression that the country was drifting and needed the messianic Kennedy. The media was bent on electing Kennedy.
In 1964, the media slaughtered Goldwater and the reelection of Johnson was a foregone conclusion.
In 1968, riots, assassinations, wars all combined to narrowly derail the media's effort to elect Johnson's vice president, Hubert Humphrey, and Nixon prevailed. In 1972, Nixon's approval was through the roof and media could not prevail against them, although they certainly tried.
By 1976 the media had painted the Republican Party as the creature of Nixon, Ford was a fool and a tool of Nixon, and Jimmy Carter as the pristine knight of honor. The media prevailed.
1980, the media turned every trick it knew to derail the campaign of Ronald Reagan but the combination of gas lines, terrible economy, interest rates, hostages in Iran, bumbling everywhere, plus Reagan's magical campaigning skills coupled with a strong conservative message carried Reagan decisive victory. His reelection was assured as his policies produced economic recovery. Note however, the media tried throughout to portray Reagan as a dangerous cowboy who could blow up the world, just as they had done to Barry Goldwater. It did not work with Reagan.
1992, the media distorted the economy and painted George Bush as out of touch. Ross Perot did the rest.
2008 economic disaster and the media's determination to deify the first African-American president overwhelmed everything. The electorate put in office a man of whose real biography they were appallingly ignorant. The media wanted it that way.
My thesis: the media will elect Democrats unless events make it clear to a blind man that the Democrats are unfit for office.
There are, however, two very serious reservations to this reality:
First, the essential rationalization for the Iraq war remains: An Islamicist regime in possession of atomic weapons represents an existential threat to the United States because it might well pass those weapons off to terrorists who smuggle them into the homeland where they might be detonated. A series of American cities incinerated might well lead to surrender to the tyranny of sharia.
Therefore, Iran simply cannot be permitted to acquire nuclear weapons.
Second, Ronald Reagan in the Cold War and George W. Bush after 9/11, faced an analogous challenge to the world that confronts Barack Obama. Reagan faced an adversary bent on destroying America but one which he simply could not engage on the battlefield because of the reality of nuclear weapons. So he started by establishing moral clarity: "we win, they lose." He followed moral rearmament up with actual rearmament. Finally, he deployed every conceivable non-belligerent weapon against the Soviet Union until it broke.
George W. Bush reacted in much the same way. He asserted moral clarity: "you are either for us or against us." He supported and grew the military and acceded to the professionalism of his generals. He persevered in the face of daunting obstacles in Iraq war and courageously authorized a successful "surge" which effectively won the war. He failed, however, to keep the people with him in the face of determined Democrat and media obstruction.
When people say that the country reacts against Obama but supports his passive policies, what they mean is they are reacting viscerally against his moral incoherence. They sense that he has no acceptable worldview that leads to the survival of the country in the face of an existential threat.
Second, they do not approve of the evisceration of the military power of the United States but they do not want that power used indiscriminately. Obama has done both and, worse, he has done so without producing victory.
Finally, the people sense that the war on terrorism is difficult but not impossible to win, however, they do not perceive that Obama wants to win it nor do they believe that he knows how to win it. They want solutions to a difficult problem such as those that were provided by Ronald Reagan.
They do not want war, they want victory. Obama has given them the first but not the second.
He is a squishy "moderate" who inhabits (or inhabited) MSLSD for a while.
He was a local radio guy in Philly until he got the big head and went national.
He offers nothing that cannot be learned somewhere else.
The economy cannot possibly grow in a world dominated by social and security chaos.
...but it seems to me the big problem people are starting to have with Obama is that he just doesnt seem to care, at all, about anything.
And you know, I dont think he does.
Yeah. I think it’s that bad and have since before the housing crash. I believe the analogies of the water doubling every day in a sealed stadium or the penny income doubling every day - the exponential growth - and that is what I see happening to the western world’s cultural and financial problems. We are at a precipice and it is happening faster and faster. But the end will be at lightning speed, as in “hope you have enough gas to make it home from work.”
You are onto something big about “caring”. For Obama’s base of emotion voters, “cares about people like me” matters much more than rational policy. This impression was carefully fostered by his campaign handlers (who successfully painted Romney as a cruel plutocrat). But the real Obama is aloof, disengaged, and disinterested. He cares about himself, period, and it shows.
IMO, most Americans do not comprehend world affairs or even geography, or aspire to. They want to believe that smart people in government know better and “work 24/7” to keep everything under control. But endless embarrassments and disasters (Fast & Furious, Benghazi, trading 5 terrorists for a deserter, the immigration fiasco, exposure of NSA spying, gross ObamaCare mismanagement, green energy corruption, Veterans Administration debacles, downed airliners, feckless red-lines in Syria, ISIS triumphant) make it impossible to pretend that this President and his team have ANYTHING under control. That makes even Obama voters uneasy, since disorder portends disruption of “benefits”. And who makes sure you get your benefits? Why, “someone who cares about people like me”, of course.
“It’s a fair question, even though the economy declined 2.9 percent in the first quarter ...”
That’s a fair question? The premise of the question is demonstrably false. It is not a fair question. It is a stupid question, and possibly a dishonest one.
Because NY Drive time radio is dead, that’s why.
In the morning there is Don Imus (insufferable, although I like that Irish guy, his name is escaping me), Hillary Barsky (sp?) who is seemingly the permanent guest host on WOR, she’s probably the worst radio personality I’ve ever heard in my entire life and that includes the guy I heard reading the “trading post” classifieds on some little North Carolina station in the wee hours once, Joe Piscapo, eh, he’s OK I guess, so mostly I end up listening to Terri Gross on NPR (I know, I know!)
On the drive home, after 6 there is Mark Levin (love him but like I said he drives me nuts) and then there is sports talk on WOR and some health infomercial type stuff on 970.
THAT’S how I end up listening to Smerconish, but it’s usually only for about 20 minutes.
I have noticed the NY talk stations eating their own lately. Not suprised that NY drive time is dead, dead, dead.
Never heard Hillary Barsky. I’ll have to tune in for a hoot.
No way am i ever listening to Terry Gross. I have the same reaction to her that i do to Smerconish.
I turn her off if she has a lefty crazy person on but her arts stuff is ok. She re-ran an interview she did with the singer/songwriter Bobby Womack the other day. I really didn’t know who he was but it turned out he wrote a couple of pretty big hits. He started out in gospel but then “crossed over” to r and b. He told some good stories. And one thing that’s great about npr-no commercials!
This illustrates a point that Barone didn't get around to in this article:
That Americans, once we have a stable period of order, take it for granted. We get the itch for change. There was only marginal distance between Kennedy and Nixon on policy, but JFK was a fresh handsome face with an accent some found attractive. He won because he didn't sweat during the TV debate.