President Obama was quite downbeat in his conference the day after the mid-term election. A bit more downbeat than was required actually, which really struck me. Sure he’s tired, but does he have to sound that downcast? After all, other major Presidents had setbacks like this and they came back.
On reflection, it might be a strategy. To a lot of angry independents, Obama has to show that he has learnt the lesson they wanted to send to Washington. If he sounds like he doesn’t care, then they’ll continue staying angry. So he deliberately looks like he’s been “shellacked” and says he will listen to and work with the Republicans going forward.
It’s worth noting he didn’t make any concession on policy. Of course, trying to pass any more major legislation is out of the window until 2012 – the Republican dominated House of Representatives will reject him and they’ll stall him in the Senate (and he no longer has the magic number of 60 to bypass them).
One of my frustrations with the left in the UK and USA is that they completely ignore how much legislation Obama has already pushed, and keep chiding him for not delivering more without looking at the electoral math. Is he meant to conjure environmental legislation out of thin air when almost all Republicans are now climate-change deniers?
Sure he made mistakes, but he’s also delivered a lot. See: whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com.
The trick now is this. He has to force Republicans to take the bait and make policy decisions. That would not only expose they have no plan, other than to scream ‘no’ at whatever Obama says, but also lead to infighting.
He has to get the Republicans to share some of the blame for the 2012 election too, and get independent voters to think: ‘well, we gave Republicans a chance in 2010 and they were just as bad as Bush!’. Which is why, if Obama doesn’t sound like he’s taking on board the Republican win, he won’t win back those voters.
I’m not the biggest fan of this line of thinking. Obama has tried to look bipartisan all the way through (meanwhile pushing some highly partisan legislation) and he lost control of the message. On the other hand, his personal approval rating has remained higher than Reagan or Clinton were at this stage. So maybe it works.
No doubt this will enrage many liberals. But the proof will be in the pudding. I’m betting that while Obama talks compromise and bipartisanship on a national level – behind the scenes he will make lots of small decisions that will push his agenda forward anyway. I’ll be happy with that.
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Filed in: Current affairs,United States