Obama the Divider

Although Barack Obama’s legacy as president largely remains a question mark, one thing is for certain – he’s changed the nature of political campaigns forever. In 2008, pundits, pollsters, and long-time political observers marveled at his campaign’s use of data and technology to build grassroots support and target resources. In 2012, with broad-based support gone, his team was able to use their incredible informational infrastructure to micro-target demographic groups to build a winning coalition.

This new strategy, which was labeled “identity politics,” seemed to go against the image of President Obama as a uniter rather than a divider, but at that point he seemed not to care, he just needed enough votes to win.

Long gone was the image of Obama standing in front of the Democratic National Convention and saying, “…there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s a United States of America. There’s not a black America and a white America and a Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

But the win-at-all-cost approach has taken its toll. Broadly, that can be seen in the results of a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which found that 55 percent of Americans say that Obama is a divider while only 38 percent said he is a uniter. That’s a 10-point increase from just last year.

The “identity politics” strategy has also whittled away at the support of key parts of his coalition. This is unsurprising. Securing the votes of distinct demographics requires lots of individual promises, very few of which President Obama has been willing or able to follow through on.

The result has been a political disaster for the beleaguered president and for Democratic candidates trying to win this fall. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that Obama’s approval ratings have fallen dramatically among young adults, women and Latino voters – groups that were key in propelling him to the White House. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty reports on the poll’s results:

Women surveyed said they disapprove of Obama by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin — nearing an all-time low in the poll. It’s almost the reverse of the 55 percent to 44 percent breakdown for Obama among female voters in 2012, according to exit polls.

His approval rating among women has slipped four percentage points from a year ago and 16 points since his second inaugural in January 2013, when his approval was 60 percent among the group.

Among younger voting-age Americans, Obama’s approval rating stood at 43 percent. That marked an 11-point drop since June among those 18 to 29 years old. Voters younger than 30 supported Obama by 60 percent to 37 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, support for Obama among Hispanics stood at 57 percent, which is down markedly from the first half of 2013, when approval among Latinos soared to about 75 percent.

Obama’s support among young adults now matches his all-time low, a sign of our generation’s flagging faith in President Obama. The reason for the drop in support is clear: Millennials have made little economic progress over the past decade. Our college tuition bills keep soaring, our student loan debts are growing, the job market isn’t growing, and wages are stagnant. The president’s lack of leadership has also taken a toll.

“He gives awesome speeches, but his actions on Syria, ISIL and Ukraine have given me a negative view,” Darrell Utt, a 19-year-old college student told the Washington Post. “

That sentiment is widespread, especially among women in the poll.

“He’s been faced with a lot of challenges, and he’s lost his way,” Kimberly Cole told the Washington Post. Karlene Richardson, another long-time Obama support, told the Post, “Honestly, I just feel that what I bought into is not what I’m getting. I’m starting to wonder whether the world takes us seriously.”

Hispanics are increasingly having a difficult time taking this president seriously. Time and time again he has promised them action in return for their votes, and time and time again he has failed to follow through.

“The question for us Latinos – especially the newly 24 million of us eligible to vote – is, what to do about this?,” writes Carmen Velasquez for POLITICO. “We’ve been slapped in the face one too many times by this president. And it probably won’t be the last: Obama has a long record of betraying Latinos – and it predates his days in the White House. I’ve seen it up close.”

Each of these demographic groups is quickly realizing the underlying cynicism of “identity politics” – that constituencies—and the issues they care about—are little more than pawns on a chessboard – once the game is won, President Obama can just walk away.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that these key voting groups will immediately flock to the GOP camp. But if nothing else, this represents a tremendous opportunity for a new generation of Republicans to offer young adults, women and Latinos an alternative. We’re a party of ideas, we’re a party of freedom, and we’re a party of economic opportunity. Obama has proven himself to be a divider, it’s our time to be uniters.

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