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June 26, 2009

Promises, Promises...

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

- Bill Cosby

Is Obama Alienating His Base? Interesting tidbit I received via email:

Democrats risk alienating one of their most important constituencies by advancing the Waxman-Markey climate change bill this week or any time before an economic recovery is underway, according to the non-partisan National Center for Public Policy Research.

The National Center for Public Policy Research bases this conclusion on the results of a nationwide poll it commissioned of African-Americans. The poll, released today, suggests anxiety in the black community over Waxman-Markey-style regulations.

The survey of 800 African-Americans included 640 self-identified Democrats (80%) and 32 Republicans (4%).

* 76% of African-Americans want Congress to make economic recovery its top priority, even if it delays action on climate change;

* 38% believe job losses resulting from climate change legislation would fall heaviest on the African-American community. Only 7% believe job losses would fall heaviest on Hispanics and only 2% believe they would fall heaviest on whites;

* 56% believe Washington policymakers have failed to adequately take into account the economic and quality of life concerns of the African-American community when formulating climate change policy;

* 52% of respondents aren't willing pay anything more for either gasoline or electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 73% are unwilling to pay more than 50 cents more for a gallon of gas and 76% are unwilling to pay more than $50 more per year for electricity to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions;

.... Ridenour added, "As the overwhelming majority of the people we polled are self-identified Democrats and Obama voters, one would expect them to largely agree with the Democratic leadership on this high-profile issue, but they don't. This may in part be why Speaker Nancy Pelosi has run into strong resistance to the Waxman-Markey bill from Democratic Congressmen representing the central states."

The full survey is here. Considering that 90% of black voters voted for Obama, he might want to listen to what they have to say. A mere 2% shift in the black vote in 2004 helped hand George Bush the election:

There's no question that the faith initiative -- combined with the administration's support for banning gay marriage and promoting school vouchers -- has already helped reshape Bush's image among some traditionally Democratic African Americans. And the change in black support on Nov. 2, though only a 2-percentage-point increase nationwide, helped secure Bush's reelection victory. The gains were greater in battleground states.

In the crucial state of Ohio, where the faith-based program was promoted last fall at rallies and ministerial meetings, a rise in black support for Bush created the cushion he needed to win the presidential race without a legal challenge in that state.

A corresponding erosion of support among gays who are increasingly angry and frustrated with the Obama administration could easily shift the nation back to the right in 2012:

Aravosis has called for a boycott of a fundraiser tonight for the Democratic Congressional and Senatorial Committees. He said gay rights may have to "punish" the Democratic party in order to move forward its agenda.

"Our people tend to have a lot of money, (and) we vote 70 percent Democrat," Aravosis said, explaining the political weight behind the gay community.

The phenomenon that may well sink Barack Obama in 2012 is the same thing that got him elected: hope. Or perhaps a better term for this phenomenon is raised expectations. This is a man who spent promises like a drunken sailor in order to cobble together the coalition that swept him into office last November.

But what helped at the ballot box may hurt him now that he's in office. Many of the constituencies that supported him have competing expectations of the man they elected. In struggling to satisfy a plethora of mutually exclusive goals, Obama risks accomplishing nothing and satisfying no one. Interestingly, the increasing disarray of a largely marginalized Republican Party is actually beginning to work against him:

In a conversation the other day with a White House official, I heard something I'd never expected from an employee of Barack Obama's. "I wish," he said, "George Bush would speak up a little more."

In the five months since he left the presidency, Bush has immersed himself in his memoir. He has stayed home in Texas and rarely spoken publicly. The result has been that he has largely disappeared from the news and -- the point the Obama aide was making -- pretty much has been forgotten.

Bush's silence has made it harder for Obama to keep the public focused on Bush as being responsible for our present difficulties -- the weak economy, the unsettled wars, the scandals of Guantanamo and the detainee program.

Without a powerful (and easy to demonize) opponent, Obama and his policies are finally beginning to receive scrutiny that should have occurred before the election:

Five months into his tenure, Obama has become the only president the American people think about. And a series of polls last week showed that when Americans think about Obama, they are becoming increasingly critical.

Complicating all of this is Obama's own lack of leadership - his lack of core beliefs, of direction; of focus:

New White Houses are always ardent for change, for breakthroughs. They want the sentence even when they don't know the sentence exists, even when they think it's a paragraph. The Obama people want, "He was the president who gave all Americans health care," and, "He lessened income inequality," and, "He took over a failed company," and other things. They wants a jumble of sentences and do a jumble of things. But an administration about everything is an administration about nothing.

Mr. Obama is not seeing his sentence. He's missing it. This is the sentence history has given him: "He brought America back from economic collapse and kept us strong and secure in the age of terror." That's all anybody wants. It's all that's needed.

It is a great and worthy sentence, the kind that gives you a second term and the affectionate memory of history. If Mr. Obama earns it and makes it true of himself, he will be called good to great. But you have to meet it, you have to do it.

To get the first part of the sentence right would take a lot—restoring the confidence of the nation, getting spending down so people don't feel a sense of horror as they look at the future, getting or keeping the dollar sound, keeping the banks up and operating. A friend says that what's missing is an adult and responsible sense of limits, that we need to remember—we need to be reminded by our leaders—that it's not un-American to see limits. It's adult to see limits, it's right and realistic.

The irony here is that Obama's election was largely a backlash against a president who, his critics said, focused too much on the war on terror and didn't listen enough to his critics. Obama seems to be making the opposite mistake: listening too much and focusing too little.

It may well be his undoing.

Posted by Cassandra at June 26, 2009 08:09 AM

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I'm struck by Obama's serial obfuscation of the truth in his latest version of the "Fireside chat." His willingness to declare the elderly in our families as too old to be elegible for extraordinary care in their declining years as opposed to his doing whatever it takes to save his own is telling. In addition, he ignores the lie that his health plan will not drive employers to drop current health plans in favor of the governmental plan. The latest lie is his failure to come clean on the tax burden on consumers if the Cap and Trade plan goes into effect. The extra costs to the producer will be passed down the food chain to the consumer.

He thinks we are dumb and dumber!

Posted by: vet66 at June 26, 2009 12:31 PM

I think the "competing interest groups" narrative is going to be the most fascinating thing to watch in the next 4 (now 3-1/2 years). During the campaign, it didn't seem to occur to Obama and the Democrats or to any of their allied interest groups - African-Americans; Hispanics; NOW and NARAL; the GLBT community; Gorians; unions; and others I'm sure I've forgotten - that the various groups might want not just different things but conflicting things.

African-Americans may well be the nexus of much of this. I imagine African-Americans feel (with justification) that they are most vulnerable to tough economic times; hence their dislike for anything that may make a fragile economy even more fragile and their opposition to cap-and-trade. The desire for decent schools for their children may pit them against the teacher's union in inner city schools. Amnesty for illegal aliens can be seen as adding more workers to the very part of the labor pool where disadvantaged African-Americans can find jobs. Their religious ties seem to make them less than accepting of the GLBT agenda. There doesn't appear to be as much of a conflict with the traditional women's groups but I'm occasionally seeing write-ups about the high rate of abortions in the Black community that make me wonder if that's a flash-point waiting to happen.

There is also grumbling on the GLBT side and the feminists are not united in their praise of Obama. Maybe this is the point at which the interest groups realize that if they're owned body and soul by the Democratic Party there's not much reason for the Party to worry about the groups' concerns. Or better yet, maybe this is the point at which the people who are supposedly nothing more than their group identity wake up and start figuring out what's best for them as individuals rather than as faceless members of some amorphous group.

May you live in interesting times.

Posted by: Elise at June 26, 2009 02:04 PM

African-Americans may well be the nexus of much of this.

Imagine the kitchen table conversations going on even now in black homes. I'll bet there are already mutterings of Obama "not taking care of his people," "letting The Man stick it to us again," and "how is raising taxes and gas prices through the roof supposed to help our community?"

Fearless prediction: I've got a ten-spot that says, the way things are going, Obama will be damn lucky to get 50% of the black vote if he runs for reelection. If that's the case, he's political t.o.a.s.t.

Posted by: MarkJ at June 26, 2009 02:22 PM

This is just business as usual.

Grumbling by factions of Dems always comes during off years. When an election looms the complaints somehow evaporate. This on/off pattern allows the pretense of open debate when it won't matter. But there is iron discipline when it will matter.

No supporting groups of the Democrats are going to defect.

I would bet that the Jewish vote would go 75% for Obama today even though he has signaled there will be no support whatever to Israel.

These group leaders are bought and paid by the Democratic Party. And the ranks won't to spend much time thinking matters through.

Some will just decide the GOP caused all their more recent woes by some magical powers such as those Rove still uses to aim hurricanes at poor black cities.

Others will rationalize that O and the Democrats need several more years in office to fix the wreckage the GOP left behind. Therefore anything that O has done is somehow brilliant.

And the media will tell them the same things.

Posted by: K at June 26, 2009 03:13 PM

You may be right, K, but if so it will be at least partly because the Republicans don't manage to make the case that what they have to offer is better for everyone.

Posted by: Elise at June 26, 2009 03:18 PM

Elisa: since I am still on-line.

You have a good point. I subscribe to either the GOP In Disarray school. Or the related GOP Death March school.

I don't wish them ill but I think they are very ill. Prognosis: flip a coin.

But to the topic. My earlier message was about the internal dynamics of the Democrats. Their supporting special interests have a pattern of talking tough in off years. But only in off years.

IMO Dems can employee more effective tactics because the media allows it. The GOP tacticians simply have a tougher job. For the paid campaign worker of either party the objective is votes not morality.

Like all generalizations there will be exceptions but the world functions from what experience shows is generally true.

e.g. There are thousands of airline flights each day because we know it is generally safe. The exception is often fatal.

Posted by: K at June 26, 2009 04:44 PM

The Democrats in general and the members of the party factions have mastered the mental powers that will allow them to function well in our new Dystopian future.
The are able to hold two (or more!) conflicting opinions in their head at the same time without it giving them pause to reconsider their original premise, which is:
Democrats: good for working man/minorities/gay-lesbian rights/women's rights/various minorities/immigrants/you name it

Republicans: mean white men (James Carville is the meanest, nastiest white man I can think of, with Olbermann second, yet...) who enjoy oppressing the Other.


I see my French co-workers have mastered this art to a fine degree, which explains why they and other European countries are further down the road to the dystopian future which seems to be the destiny of the West. They are, of course, more nuanced and sophisticated than we, Americans.

Good thing we have the Third-World man as President, Barack Obama. He is preparing us for The Shape of Things to Come.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at June 26, 2009 06:17 PM


You're on.

Posted by: Grim at June 27, 2009 07:31 AM

Yeah Mark, me too if you want to cover two $10.00 wagers... I can always find a use for $10.00. =8^}

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 27, 2009 09:21 AM

Um, confused. I assume Grim and bt are betting K about the Jewish vote going 75% for Obama today. You guys can get an election scheduled for this weekend? Does this mean there really *is* a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy that controls everything?

Posted by: Elise at June 27, 2009 12:20 PM

Many of the constituencies that supported him have competing expectations of the man they elected.

A product of the Left's capacity for infinite self-delusion, since a single minute spent cogitating all his campaign promises would have revealed the discrepancies.

Of course, Obie helped them along by implying to each group that, no matter what he'd promised the *other* groups, he would actively push *that* group's agenda -- 'cuz the members thereof really *were* as special and deserving as they considered themselves.

Believing that each group will undergo an epiphany and realize that Obie will only support those agendas which can further his own is whistling in the dark -- unless he does something totally unforgiveable, such as ... ummmmmm ... errrrrrr ... ehhhhhh ... wait a minute, I'm sure there's *something* other than announcing that Conservatives have a right to exist that would drive the Lefties over the edge...

Posted by: BillT at June 27, 2009 12:31 PM

To be clear, I'm willing to wager against

"Fearless prediction: I've got a ten-spot that says, the way things are going, Obama will be damn lucky to get 50% of the black vote if he runs for reelection. If that's the case, he's political t.o.a.s.t.

Posted by: MarkJ at June 26, 2009 02:22 PM"

that possibility. IOW I'll put up $10.00 that says B.O. (wait, he now prefers B.H.O. right? or is that only when he's palling around in the M.E.? So confusing...) gets 50% or more of the black vote regardless.

Posted by: bt-the resident-curmudgeon_hun at June 27, 2009 01:09 PM

Eliza: The elections are on Tuesday. My vast is too lazy to run them today.

Secret instructions: On Tuesday go to your polling place and demand to vote. Ignore anyone who says there is not an election, they are left-wing conspirators.

Posted by: K at June 27, 2009 01:28 PM

Don't listen to him, Elisa/Eliza! The ice floes aren't strong enough to carry you in your flight from Simon Legree!

Oh. He meant Elise.

Never mind.

Sheesh. Now I'll get castigated as an "Uncle Tom"


Posted by: BillT at June 27, 2009 02:07 PM

Not gonna touch that with a 10 foot briar vine...

Posted by: Brer Bear at June 27, 2009 02:23 PM


Posted by: BillT at June 27, 2009 02:33 PM

Ah, got it. Didn't read far enough back. Too bad - I'm kind of bummed about the lack of a VRWC. Why do you guys think I came over to The Dark Side in the first place?

Still, you can't blame me for thinking "Mark" is the same person as "K" - who around here keeps the same name for more than a nanosecond? (I was going to say "except me" but, hey, Elisa/Eliza. I should have realized I'd be assigned an alias if I didn't get cracking figuring out my own.)

Posted by: Elise at June 27, 2009 05:57 PM

Elise: sorry about calling you Elisa. For one reason or another this site seems to have a small font. I should have looked closer.

Now I have quite plausibly blamed the equipment.

K is definitely not Mark. I concede that Mark could be K. I am not sure I would know.

Posted by: K at June 27, 2009 08:48 PM

Posted by: Al Soknownas at June 27, 2009 09:39 PM

> "I wish," he said, "George Bush would speak up a little more."

The man confuses Mr. Bush with Mssrs Clinton and Carter. Historically, the behavior of former PotUSes is to decline commentary on the guy in the hot seat. Bush has shown Obama much the same courtesy as he should have gotten from former Dem presidents.

Are we surprised?

We are not.

Posted by: Obloodyhell at June 27, 2009 10:51 PM

> who around here keeps the same name for more than a nanosecond?

Uh, I've generally used the same name in the same venues for most of the last 5+ years. I sometimes use different ones in varying venues (Some forums, usually not poliblogs, I use a different nick), and I have been known to change a nick for the purpose of a joke (usually leaving the e-mail the same).

> if they're owned body and soul by the Democratic Party there's not much reason for the Party to worry about the groups' concerns.

There's a great moment in Bullworth where the title character makes the same point to a black parish.

> I see my French co-workers have mastered this art to a fine degree

France. Isn't that the place where, you put three frenchmen in a room and they promptly found four political parties?

Posted by: Obloodyhell at June 27, 2009 11:00 PM

I'm kind of bummed about the lack of a VRWC.

We're around, but we maintain a low profile. Besides, you're 'way too *young* to join the Veterans' Rotary Wing Curmudgeonry.

Posted by: Bill-your_nanosecond_is_up-deposit_five_dinars,_effendi-T at June 28, 2009 03:42 AM