Obama, in deer-in-the-headlights fashion, does not quite know where to turn. On one hand, he’s taken the country so far left and sounded so divisive that he’s alienated independents and moderates and thus may earn the greatest midterm congressional rebuke since the Republicans lost 101 seats in 1932. On the other hand, on a number of symbolic issues dear to the Left — closing Guantanamo; junking Bush-era anti-terrorism protocols like renditions, tribunals, wiretaps, and intercepts; leaving Afghanistan; repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell”; gay marriage; cap-and-trade; card check; blanket amnesty — he seems cynical, timid, and no different from an old finger-in-the-wind politician.
Obama’s remedy for sinking polls and impending congressional losses was twofold — to hit the political campaign trail like “Give ’em Hell Harry,” demonizing conservatives for opposing his liberal agenda, and to recapture his hope-and-change aura by going on TV and, in particular, young-audience outlets like The Daily Show and MTV.
But the problem with the first is that Obama does not do well when he’s impromptu and petulant: see “typical white person,” “spread the wealth,” “clingers,” and, more recently, “they talk about me like a dog,” his telling the Republicans that they have to sit in the back of the car, and warning “Latinos” to punish their conservative “enemies” by voting for the Obama slate. The result is that he appears either weird (at best) or Nixonian (at worst), given his now apparently insincere bring-us-together rhetoric.
Obama’s awkward efforts to appear hip have resulted in Jon Stewart calling the president of the United States “dude” and a general diminution in the dignity of the office.
The obvious remedy is to get off TV pronto, drop the forced hipster act, return to his “no red-state/blue-state divide” tropes, find areas of agreement with Republicans and in so doing reduce the deficit, and talk about what’s right rather than what’s wrong with the United States.
That won’t happen, and what is happening is not working. On November 3, I predict we will hear quite a number of explicit postmortems from a lot of angry defeated Democrats.