The Corner

Andrew Sullivan Is Partly Correct

For saying this of Obama, Andrew Sullivan is getting some flak:

I understand why the Tea Party disagrees with his policies. What I cannot understand is how those who voted for him in 2008 because they wanted real change can explain why they may vote against him now. It makes no sense. He has carried through almost every election promise, and those he hasn’t can mostly be attributed to the GOP House. If you voted for Obama in 2008 and don’t in 2012, you never really voted for him in 2008. 

I’m not sure why Sullivan’s words are that noteworthy. In fact, I think he’s probably right — at least in his conclusion. If Romney wins, or at least if he peels off a significant number of those who voted for Obama last time, it will be precisely because lots of people “never really voted” for Obama in 2008. As should be painfully obvious, an awful lot of people pulled the level for Obama in 2008 because they were tired of Republicans; because they were bored by the wars; because they didn’t like McCain or Palin, or both; because Obama seemed optimistic and reasonable; because the financial crisis hit in September; because they didn’t listen to a word the Democratic candidate said but were nonetheless convinced by the vapid “hope and change” stuff and the (always empty) promise to rise above “politics”; and, yes, because he was black. (Why this is so controversial is beyond me: I know people who are very proud of themselves for having been, as they put it, “part of history,” who admit that Obama’s race was a considerable factor in their vote, but who recoil when you feed back to them what they just said in plain English.)

One of Obama’s biggest mistakes — perhaps his biggest mistake — was to conclude that he had a mandate for his brand of progressive change. He did not. The Obama campaign was always, in fact was deliberately, divorced from his politics. A smarter, less egotistical man would have realized as much. Obama did not. As does Sullivan, the Left likes to explain away the failure of the last four years with vague charges of “Republican obstructionism,” but this explains neither the continuing liability of the still-unpopular Obamacare nor the real damage to himself that the president did while he enjoyed majorities in both the House and the Senate. Republican “obstructionism,” remember, was only made possible by the 2010 “shellacking,” which was the product of the Democrats’ running riot for two years.

Andrew Sullivan is right: If you voted for Obama in 2008 and don’t in 2012, you never really voted for him in 2008. That, perhaps, is the great tragedy of Obama’s presidency, and something with which neither the president nor his base have yet managed to come to terms.


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