The overriding issue in the recent election was the disdain in which President Obama is held. It was the bottom line for every Republican candidate and the poison patch for every Democrat.
The number of invitations the president received to campaign with candidates was one! His approval rating was far below respect, and he was almost universally assailed by his political enemies as being at the core of the nation’s discontent. It was not just Obama as a person who was castigated, but everything he stood for. When he stated that although he was not on any ballot, but his program was, that was throwing red meat into the lion’s cage.
Where has this intense disdain come from? He is universally recognized as a very likable person. So what is behind the rhetoric that encouraged his opponents to seize on him as the primary reason for their opposition, and his own party to view him as a pariah?
It seems to me that these are among the reasons for the disdain:
– Racism certainly plays a part. When the solid Democratic south became the solid Republican south, racism was obvious before and after. It has since then gone underground — but it has not evaporated. While that may be a major factor it is not the only one.
– Hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into the campaign by ultra-conservative groups, which did not even need to say where the money came from. For that we can thank the Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision. Most of this money was developed from corporate sources like Koch Industries, which did not want the government to get in the way of their control of the American economy. Democratic money was also given in substantial amounts, but the president's name rarely accompanied the contributions. Money will still dominate our political life until there is a change in the way we finance elections.
– Certainly there are substantial ideological issues, which never really surfaced as the campaigns progressed. Attacking Obama was a convenient way to attack the Affordable Care Act, environmentalism, organized labor, the social safety net and everything else that might benefit the majority of America’s citizens
– Many parts of the world lay in tatters. Bush got us into disastrous Middle East wars, and Obama vowed to get us out of them, but the genie had already escaped the jar.
– Obama inherited the worst recession since 1930, and the recovery has been painfully slow. Wall Street still runs America’s economic life, and none of the culprits who produced the crash and ran off with millions have been prosecuted.
– Everything the president has attempted has been blocked by the right-wing consortium that now dominates the House of Representatives. He has been stymied at every turn, and then accused of being ineffective. "We will not let you solve any of the problems, and if you try and go around us, we will impeach you for misusing your authority."
– In addition to these and other inhibiters, Obama is not emotionally equipped to do the hard jawboning it takes to survive. He has been too much of an academician. Only occasionally did his speeches drive to the hearts of the America people. While there might have been considerable resonance with what he said, it rarely came across as compelling. He asked us to think about things, but was short on telling us how to act. What is more, he never really offered a vision that produced action. There was always an unbridgable distance between his rhetoric and our deepest feelings. His vision got smothered in carefully crafted arguments.
Putting it all together these are the reasons for unpopularity in both the Republican and Democratic camps. Facing these issues, the probable results became clear to many of us a month before the election.
Whether the Democrats can recover before 2016 is unclear, nor is it clear as to whether Hillary Clinton can pull together again the various groups that formed the Obama coalition. She certainly won’t do it by sidelining the liberal bodies that made the Obama elections possible. If she can’t meet the substantial social agenda he generated, it is not too late to look for another candidate.