Barack Obama today stands alone — a President without a party that supports him, an electorate that no longer trusts him and and destroyed coalition of independents that feel abandoned and betrayed.
It will take more than slick politics to save Obama’s President. It will take more than an unifying national tragedy. It will take a miracle — the kind of miracle that just doesn’t happen in today’s volatile political environment.
Ironically, the man credited just two years ago with all but destroying the Republican Party is now blamed by Democrats and independents with bringing that party back from near death to the new majority in the House and one poised to recapture the Senate and White House in 2012. Democratic senior advisers privately tell Capitol Hill Blue that Obama should consider bowing out in 2012.
How it happened is a case study of people theory versus reality while the rise of a volatile, activist electorate with no firm political allegiance means candidates of diverse views can win elections as long as they run primarily against the status quo.
Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats — driven by tapping the same voter anger against the “corruption in Washington” unseated incumbents or beat the hand-picked heir apparent of standard party leadership. And while the influx of newcomers from the Tea Party is mostly part of the Republican Party, the anger that brought them to Washington is philosophical, not political, and a new crop of Tea Party hopefuls in 2012 could well fun against the GOP.
And a unifying factor for the right and the left, the conservative and the liberal or the Democrat and the Republican will be one man: Barack Obama — he progressie who wasn’t, the leader who isn’t and the President who ain”t.
Obama has managed to alienate more factions than Jimmy Carter and generates more animosity than George W. Bush. He is a President without portfolio, a leader without followers and a head of state of a state that many consider a headlesss horseman galloping headlong towards disaster.
The coalition that got Barack Obama elected President just two years ago has been shattered. Gaming out the trajectory of the next two years can be done any number of ways, but Obama’s efforts to rebuild a politically robust alliance will be the most telling. It may be the biggest challenge of his career – and he will need happenstance along with skill if he is going to get it done.
A survey of the political landscape shows that many groups who were part of the 2008-09 Obama coalition have turned on him. Liberals believe he is an overcompromising wimp. The business community considers Obama ignorant about markets at best, a socialist at worst (O.K., some business people entertain an even harsher assessment). The media, after aiding and abetting his ride to the White House, now see the President as incompetent and overwhelmed. The independents and Republicans who backed him for office currently feel he is too liberal and too weak to do the job. These trends are all worse in Washington and among opinion leaders than they are in the country at large, but the views of elites are clearly shaping how the President is perceived by the nation in general.
It’s not often that one sees an American President without a country but it not appears we have one.