Americans put a lot of faith in Barack Obama. He was young, he was bright, and quite frankly, he was different. That uniqueness went much deeper than the fact that he happened to be the first black president, it was the way he carried himself; he was a Washington outsider (even as a sitting senator) that appeared ready to shake up the way politics was done. Messianic is the wrong word, but he was viewed at least as a revolutionary agent of change.
There was very little to base that faith on. He had a best selling book that unlike most political memoirs had the benefit of being readable. He was a senator, though not an especially accomplished one. And he was undoubtedly an amazing speech writer, or at least speech giver. He had very little political experience (cue the Right’s scorn over his past as a community organizer), but for many who were tired of business as usual that was viewed as a positive.
But with President Obama’s term nearing its end, it’s become clear that many are having buyer’s remorse. The fresh-faced naïveté turned out to be much less charming once 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue became his home address.
Rosa Brooks was one of the many who were fooled. She writes for the Washington Post:
Back in 2008, I was sure — absolutely, completely, utterly sure — that Barack Obama would make a better president than [Hillary Clinton]. With the benefit of hindsight, I now think I was wrong.
Like many other once-ardent Obama supporters, I’ve spent the last five years with a mounting sensation of buyer’s remorse. “[I]f Obama puts into his foreign policy strategy one-tenth of the talent, innovation and discipline he put into his campaign,” I wrote after the 2008 election, “he’ll be able to make real headway on a range of critical issues.” But maybe that grueling campaign just wore him out. In the Obama White House, innovation became reactiveness, discipline became rigidity, and a tight inner circle of campaign aides and Chicago pals tried to micro-manage the entire executive branch.
It’s been painful to watch the team that ran such a brilliant campaign flail around in search of a strategy, bungle their relationship with Congress, botch rollout after rollout, and miss opportunity after opportunity.
Rosa Brooks is not alone. Not by a longshot if the results of a new CNN poll are any indication. The poll finds that only 47 percent of Americans view Obama favorably, a new low for his presidency.
“This marks the first time in a CNN poll that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of Obama,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “And, at 51 percent, his unfavorable is higher than his favorables for the first time as well.”
Fortunately for President Obama he has run his last race (although he sure does seem at his best on the campaign trail). Unfortunately for Democrats, Obama remains the face of their party. As he goes, they will likely go in the upcoming midterm elections. RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende explains how important job approval will be to his party’s electoral success:
“This isn’t a perfect relationship, but presidential job approval is still the most important variable for how his party fares in midterm elections, explaining about half of the variance.The relationship is highly statistically significant: For every point in job approval the president loses, his party loses 0.6 percent of its caucus. So, at 60 percent, the president should lose 5 percent of his caucus; at 50 percent it is around 12 percent of his caucus lost; at 40 percent, it’s about 18 percent of his caucus lost – which would be 36 seats.”
That his parting legacy could be the loss of a governing majority for his party is likely not one that a young Barack Obama could have ever envisioned. Perhaps in that way Obama may come to be as disappointed in himself as many in America have become of him.