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September 22, 2010


Dan Balz writes:
One of the persistent mysteries about the president is why someone who began his adult life as a community organizer, working with economically displaced workers in Chicago, has had so much difficulty making a connection with voters on economic issues.

Community organizing is nothing like the kind of overall executive leadership we look for in a President IMHO. A community organizer needs to be skilled at building a sense of grievance, envy and entitlement. That's most easily accomplished by blaming others for the problems in that community.

Mr. Obama has followed the same pattern as President. He demonized big business, oil companies, banks, wall street, high earners, etc. Unfortunately, his anti-business rhetoric has discouraged business expansion and made the recession worse than it needed to be.

Margaret Carlson also sees the problem as Obama's presentation. She advises the President:

"But he’s being hammered in polls that ask Americans whether he cares about people like them. Where did Mr. Hope and Change go? Even if that was inauthentic, he should bring it back."

Perhaps Carlson learned her ethics from the song The Reluctant Cannibal by Flanders and Swann, which includes the fatherly advice, "Always be sincere, whether you mean it or not."


Brendan -

While "connecting" can certainly be less important than the structural issues, even you admit it is not neccesarily a "myth" that should be "killed" - your comment that "an unfavorable political environment overwhelmed Clinton's ability to "connect" implies the ability to connect is worth something.

The more I read your posts (and it's been since Spinasity days) the more it appears you take a pretty much black/white view in your opinions, or at least in the way you express them.

Marty, I'm not saying "connecting" is a myth. See the first sentence -- the myth is the claim that "the predictable decline in President Obama's political standing is the result of a failure to 'connect' rather than structural factors" and in general that presidents become unpopular because they are "not connecting."

Fair enough Brendan. My mistake.

That's what get for perhaps paying more attention to the headline (which reads kinda like I suggested), than the article.

Brendan, you might be too young to have observed as an adult Reagan's presidency (I don't know).

In my old gut, never have the voting public's trust and confidence in a President collapsed like they have for Obama. There might be some similarity to Clinton's first two years, but the feeling of Clinton's early decline was less severe, and his prospect for reelection at this point in his first term seemed good.

In contrast, many people I know who voted enthusiastically for Obama now admit their disappointment, disillusionment, even shame. They will never vote for him again. Your "structural factors" do not explain this discrepancy (warning: I run a small, heavy manufacturing, mid-American company selling to non-government customers -- mine is a world apart from that of faculty clubs, salons, and press rooms.)

If your analysts tell you that Reagan and Clinton experienced similar "structural factors", "connecting problem" explanatory myths, or losses of trust to those now afflicting Obama, I suspect the analyses are either obsolete, wishful thinking-based, or cooked.

From my window, Obama's situation looks modernly unique. Novembers 2010 and 2012 will reveal whose view is clearer.

Hello David in Cal,

Here's a Jean Giraudoux quote that also sums up Margaret Carlson's hopes for Obama:

"The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made".

The difference between Obama and Clinton was that the economy was already relatively healthy in 1994, with unemployment falling from 7.2% in early 1993 to 5.6% by October 1994 and continuing in that range right up through 1996.

Now Reagan did have high unemployment(around 10.2% by election day 1992), but economic growth in 1983 and 1984 was an explosive 7.5%, bringing unemployment down to 7.4% by election day 1984.

We would be damn lucky to get economic growth at even half the rate Reagan did in 1983 and 1984, which would still put unemployment at a level of 8.3% by late 2012, which is a tad too high for Obama to be reelected(he needs it to be under 7.5% by October 2012).

Unless Obama can generate 5%+ economic growth in 2011 and 2012, he is going to have a very tough time being reelected.

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