May 30, 2012

Why Obama isn’t doing better against Romney

Sam Smith

While it is both reasonable and attractive to blame many of Obama’s political problems on the lies, mental dysfunction and general sliminess of the Republicans,  that doesn’t explain why so few percentage points have separated him from Romney in poll after poll. After all, the strength of one’s opponent is a given; what you do about it is what matters.

We are now seeing some of the liabilities of creating a largely fictional character of almost comic book proportions known in 2008 as the candidate of “hope and change.” Obama was an establishment vetted choice to be the first black presidential candidate with a chance of winning. He had no significant achievements but in the political psychology of our era branding beats being - and Obama seemed just right. Besides, he was a young, handsome guy running against a genial but not particularly energetic Republican who had recently crossed the biblical limits of three score and ten.

Four years later, however, reality has raised its ugly head. Obama now has a record he can’t explain all that well and has said a lot of things that don’t mean a lot to a lot of people. And the silly little jog up the steps to the speakers’ podium to deliver some innocuous clich├ęs is no longer sufficient.

Besides, now his brand  is being directly challenged by another good looking purveyor of simplistic symbolism, a man also allegedly of God and family, who even has the gall to promise hope and change. And, besides, he’s white.

Obama’s troubles are basically that it is just as easy to die by the brand as it is to live by the brand. Especially if lots of people have already bought you and now know how you really work.

It’s probably too late to do much about it, but here for the record are some of Obama’s own political problems this time around:

- He lectures too much. He doesn’t know how to talk United States and his speeches have a didactic, condescending tone that tends to reduce the listener from citizen to student.

- He hasn’t achieved enough real stuff. Elites of Obama’s vintage and education think that people are moved by knowing that housing starts have improved 0.6%. They aren’t. They want to see and feel the progress.

- He doesn’t have a plan. At least one that ordinary voters can understand and appreciate.

- He doesn’t have many friends. Not only does he not seem to have buddies from high school and college, he doesn’t have  many political ones, either. This is one reason why it’s been so easy for some to fill the gap with Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright.

- He hasn’t made new friends since being in office. He’s been notably weak at schmoozing up potential allies or schmoozing down potential opponents.

- Barack, we hardly knew ye. Obama was plunked into prominence by the powers that be. He didn’t work his way up with tellable tales. Even Bill Clinton had been governor of a real state before the Democratic Leadership Council foisted him upon us. This is the flaw in premature branding. There are too few good real stories to tell. Which is one reason why it’s been so easy for some to make hay with the birthplace issue.

- Post racial politics takes more than a black being elected president. One of the first things Obama should have done was to reach out to groups  traditionally seen as laggards in a multi-ethnic society.  And one of the best ways to bring black and white together is to make green more important – with programs and bucks for small business, public works, aid to farmers and so forth.  

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Both Obama’s policies and lack of personal empathy have worked against him.  There’s not much that can be done about the latter at this late date. But a half dozen easily understandable policies that help those with some of the most doubts about Obama could make a big difference in this campaign.

Won't some of Obama’s biggest contributors dislike such an approach? Absolutely.  But to win in this political market Obama has to start shorting some of the very investments that got him where he is. It’s time to disdain Bain – which has actually given more to Democrats -  and go with the people for a change.  

8 comments:

Uncle Goat said...

We've reached the point where it no longer matter who sits in the White House, the decisions for the country are being made elsewhere. Since Obama's biggest achievements are being a pal to Wall Street, the creation of an official US Kill List and the belief that remote controlled weapons make war easier, it's hard to think of him as a Democrat.

Mitt Romney is terrible, but only slightly more than Obama. That they are both supported in various degrees by the same shadow figures in Wall Street doesn't help. At one point it seemed impossible to believe that a president could be as bad as Dubya Bush, now it seems unlikely that we will ever have anyone better.

Walter F. Wouk said...

"...it is both reasonable and attractive to blame many of Obama’s political problems on the lies, mental dysfunction and general sliminess of" Obama.

He's a liar and a sell out.

Anonymous said...

Nixon didn't have any friends, besides Rebozo. Carter only had his brother Billy. Reagan may have had friends but he wasn't president, Regan was. Wilson won reelection, so can the incumbent professor. Trained as a community organizer, Obama enjoys a comfortable electoral college lead over Romney, and only needs to win one of the eight key swing states. Three and a half years of non-stop campaigning lead inevitably to reelection. The creeping coup d'etat by the Supreme Court and the collapse of Europe make no difference. The Euro crisis will help Obama- if few others. Since Romney lacks any interest in, or knowledge of, political issues, his failure to appear presidential during the coming October surprise, will finish him off. The Obama brand will be propped up through election day by Fed promises to backstop anything that moves. After that all bets are off.

Anonymous said...

The incumbent went to Washington, as had Jimmy Stewart, with youthful enthusiasm. Now that he has shot Liberty Valence, his challenger and the Bush gang guns haven't got any legal way of taking back the old gold mine.

mike flugennock said...

One thing I learned from the "election" of 2000 is that the only way we can have a viable third party is if we have a viable second party -- and as far as I'm concerned, the USA is under single-party rule, that of the Pro-War, Pro-Oligarchy, Anti-Justice, Anti-Freedom Party.

I learned from the "election" of 2000 that it doesn't matter who "wins"; the people are going to be screwed anyway. I learned that "elections" in this country are an empty sham and a corporate-bankrolled freak circus, and that anyone who actually expect any change from legitimizing the process with their participation via voting is only wasting time and energy, and cheating themselves.

However, in spite of my state belief above -- or, perhaps, because of it -- I'm rooting for Romney to win, if only for the deep satisfaction of seeing the smug smiles wiped off the faces of faux Progressives and Liberals, and an end to the Liberals' irksome triumphalist bleating and ankle-biting.

Anonymous said...

Yay, Mike F.!! Dream on, Sam, dream on. Obama is a crook, a liar, and a thief and you're voting for him. Shame on you. If enough cowards in this country had the courage of their convictions (if they had any), they'd vote for anybody but Robama or Obomney. In the 60s, there was a saying, "what if they gave a war and nobody came?" That needs to be updated: "what if they gave an election and no one voted?" Screw all of 'em!

Samson said...

Why isn't Obama doing better against Romney? Because everyone wanted "Change" and "Hope" and now everyone knows for certain that Obama and the Democrats don't offer "Change" and "Hope" and instead were just lying to everyone when they said they did last election.

Personally, I could care less whether the Democrats win or lose. They are a political party that believes in wars abroad, spying at home and a government of the bankers, by the bankers and for the bankers.

Don't vote for any candidate on TV. The money to appear on TV just proves to you that they are bought off too.

Anonymous said...

Obama has governed in a manner calculated to win several key counties in Ohio. Dems let him play his hand, but in December the base either goes militant against incumbents, or moves to Canada.