Nothing succeeds like repeated failure
While it’s long been conventional wisdom on the Left that the Republican Party is doing whatever it can to ensure the economy stays horrid just long enough for the President to lose his reelection bid, there’s mounting evidence that the rest of the country — Republicans excluded — has reached the same conclusion:
[N]ew data suggests that about half the country, including a majority of self-identified independents, believe that congressional Republicans are using their political power to thwart Obama’s efforts to reduce unemployment, presenting Democrats an opportunity to make this argument more explicitly as the 2012 campaign moves forward — to undercut Republicans’ claims that Obama and the Dems bear full responsibility for the economy, and to make their pattern of obstruction a real liability for them.
Suffolk University polled registered voters in Florida and found that nearly half of voters, including large minorities of conservatives and Republicans, believed “Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jump-start the economy to insure that Barack Obama is not re-elected?”
On Monday, a nation-wideem Washington Post/em/ABC News poll yielded similar results. The question in the Post/ABC poll was different — it asked respondents to choose between “President Obama is making a good faith effort to deal with the country’s economic problems, but the Republicans in Congress are playing politics by blocking his proposals and programs,” and “President Obama has not provided leadership on the economy, and he is just blaming the Republicans in Congress as an excuse for not doing his job.”
Once again, half of their respondents went with option one. But as Greg Sargent noted, that’s because Republican voters overwhelmingly disagreed. By contrast, a healthy majority of moderates and independents agree with the economic sabotage premise.
Also on Monday, liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas publicized the top lines of a PPP poll he commissioned, which closely mimic the Post/ABC survey: “50% think GOP intentionally stalling economy, incl 51% of Indies, amp; 15% of GOPers.
One thing to keep in mind when gauging these results is the influence that the public’s continued personal fondness for Obama may be playing:
Obama’s strong personal favorability ratings in polls are the counterpoint to his sagging job approval numbers. Advisers privately acknowledge that’s what is helping his overall standing hold fairly steady in the mid-40s.
A recent Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 54 percent of adults had a favorable impression of the president, while 44 percent had an unfavorable one. It’s a picture virtually unchanged since the end of his first year in office.
The same survey found that 78 percent considered Obama a “likable person.”
But, as Jon Chait notes, the currently populist mood of the electorate puts Obama in a good position to run not only against Congress or Washington, but against the economic power structure of the United States more generally:
Americans are in an angry, populist mood — distrustful of government, but even more distrustful of business. In the most recent NBC/The Wall Street Journal poll, 60 percent of Americans strongly agreed with the following statement:
The current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a very small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country. America needs to reduce the power of major banks and corporations and demand greater accountability and transparency. The government should not provide financial aid to corporations and should not provide tax breaks to the rich.
For people who follow politics — and in particular Obama, who has always had an outsized fondness for the best and the brightest — closely, the idea of the President being an outsider is laughable. But while it’s indeed silly to describe Columbia and Harvard-educated, millionaire, Wall Street-coddling Barack Obama as a barnstorming threat to the status quo, at least two things are working in his favor. For one, as deferent as he is to America’s oligarchs, his slavishness pales in comparison to that of the GOP; and for another, his likely opponent is so corporate and so elite-seeming, only C.M. Burns would fail to look like the societal underdog in comparison.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the President essentially always presents himself as an outsider, and, just as consistently, is never anything of the kind. Obama’s predecessor had, for all his talk of being a rebel cowboy, infamously blue-blooded and high-brow roots, and even rags-to-riches figures like Bill Clinton only reach the rarefied air of the Oval Office after thoroughly proving themselves to be fundamentally nonthreatening to the interests of America’s richest and most powerful. In that light, Obama’s strategy is so well-worn and unremarkable, it’s cliché
Last, it’s worth mentioning that Obama’s populism is of a very relative sort. His fundamental pitch of being the Only Adult in the Room remains the same (his jobs bill is strenuously anodyne) and while his rhetorical flourishes as of late have been more stylistically confrontational than was his norm, he’s still only poking at his adversaries on issues of policy rather than class or race. That the President’s course has patently moved towards the rabble-rousing Left only goes to show just how Rightward was where he stood previously, and, incidentally, where much of the Democratic Party still remains: in a political bubble in which a guy like Bill Daley represents the Left in negotiations.