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June 18, 2010


These folks' general response to this is that Obama has to "sell the public" on this or that. This will, somehow, cause Congress to act.

That has both the false assumption about a polarizing president's ability to drastically change public opinion on an issue, and the overestimation of how much "pressure" Obama can productively exert on senators who represent states where he's very unpopular.

Gosh, how could anyone ever have gotten the idea that Obama could be so powerful? Let's turn the Wayback Machine to St. Paul, Minnesota, June 3, 2008:

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment - this was the time - when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

The expectation of an all powerful Obama is a straw man. The perception, right or wrong, is that he does less than he legitimately can and arguably should. On civil rights fierce advocacy is little more than a begrudging whimper. On health care reform the administration shot low conceding too much ground before negotiations even started and sat by passive on the sidelines for far too long. It's not enough to be right and be a good example. More forceful leadership and more direct advocacy in the court of public opinion goes a long way toward getting policy implemented.

Greg's post confirms my first comment. He writes, "More forceful leadership and more direct advocacy in the court of public opinion goes a long way toward getting policy implemented." Maybe when Bush was at 70% approval he could do that, but Obama's polarizing now. And he has little influence on the people who matter to the senators who matter (Nebraska, Louisiana, Arkansas).

It's actually a little like the South Park Underpants Gnomes strategy. Step 1: "More forceful leadership and more direct advocacy in the court of public opinion." Step 2: ??? Step 3: Policy gets implemented! Ben Nelson votes for cap-and-trade!

I'll also point out that when Bush was at 70% approval he was getting popular policies implemented that special interests loved -- tax cuts, prescription drug benefits, war. It's a bit more difficult to push through policies that are unpopular or get lukewarm public support in the face of well-funded and passionate interest group and partisan opposition.

Once again I suggest reading Glenn Greenwald at salon.com. His column today is particularly appropriate for the obama devotees and democrat party hangers on that in their adoration of obama are little better than those that unquestioningly followed W.

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