It’s a good thing President Barack Obama and family have headed to Hawaii for a multi-million dollar Christmas break. The country needed the rest.
Mysteriously – if you’re the New York Times or a commentator on MSNBC – the country has grown weary of our first superstar president. Several national polls on the state of the nation show “wrong direction” leading “right track” by almost two to one while Obama is, at this stage of his presidency, the most unpopular U.S. chief executive since Richard Nixon.
A lot of those who make up what H.L. Mencken derisively referred to as “the smart set” are scratching their heads trying to come up with an explanation. Yet a drop in the polls makes sense if you believe his two national election victories represented a victory of style and symbolism over substance.
Think back. In his 2008 campaign Obama was notoriously unwilling to talk about what he would do if elected. He gave good speeches, but the reality was they offered little more than platitudes about getting things done and entering a post-partisan era that, in all candor, lasted about 38 seconds after he finished taking the oath of office.
The second campaign was little better. Obama gave better than he got when it came to explaining why he should be elected rather than the other guy, but that was only because he and his team provided a college level course in negative campaigning. That, coupled with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s inability to connect with ordinary voters and the GOP’s inexplicable decision to telegraph its strategy for the general election in the midst of the Republican primaries, made his victory a sure thing that more people should have seen coming.
The bottom line is that, in both campaigns, the president was sold to the American people like a rock star, not a political candidate. His campaign strategy was to offer the voters the chance to be part of something amorphously historic rather than to give them an agenda to get America working again. As such, being for Obama was a fad, a cultural statement rather than an expression of political conviction and, as we all know, fads come and go.
Obama has entered the “go” phase, thanks largely to the negative experience far too many Americans have had with his healthcare.gov web site. Sure there were lots of other indications that trouble was on the horizon – like the failure of the trillion dollar stimulus package to generate economic growth, the massacre in Benghazi (about which there are still more legitimate questions than answers) and his latest foreign policy gambit which involves selling Israel down the river in exchange for the nebulous promise of better behavior from Iran – but it’s the new health care law that is hitting people where they live and they don’t like it.
When asked in one recent poll to identify Obama’s most significant achievement to date, nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said “nothing,” which should come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. The rock star president may have won the talent competition, but he’s failed to make even one hit record since coming into office. In an odd way it’s a stunning affirmation of the notion that, in politics and in governing, ideas do matter. Elected officials who stand for nothing but themselves – and again Nixon comes to mind – soon find themselves standing out in the cold. Obama believes not in American exceptionalism, not in the American system, not even in the American people, but only in Obama.
After almost six years the people are starting to figure that out – and they don’t like it one bit. No one should be surprised, therefore, if the Republicans post bigger than expected gains in the 2014 congressional and gubernatorial elections. The country is getting ready to turn on Obama just like they turned on George W. Bush in 2006 over Iraq, spending and the media-fed perception that he was mismanaging the business of government. People are tired and are looking for something new. They’re just not that into him anymore.
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Peter Roff is a Senior Fellow at Frontiers for Freedom. Mr. Roff is also a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report. Formerly a senior political writer for United Press International, he’s also affiliated with Let Freedom Ring. His writing has appeared in National Review, Fox News’ opinion section, The Daily Caller, Politico and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @PeterRoff.