June 17, 2012
An Answer to the recent Article entitled "10 Reasons Why Obama will win in 2012."
1. At best Mr. Obama has been a lackluster and even anemic Party leader and a weak President.
The most cynical image of Mr. Obama is one showing him hiding behind the Oval Office desk, ducking all of the tough issues that come his way. Something he has done throughout his entire four-year term. Another is that he is the opposite of Harry Truman, the man who announced that the "Buck stops at the Oval office desk." For Mr. Obama, the "buck stopped with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed," who he sent to the frontlines to do battle with the Republicans, in short to do most of his dirty work and then to take the fall for any and all his failures -- which indeed were many.
For four years, Mr. Obama has simply stayed aloof, above the fray, aloof both from the public and from the dirty business of governing. He has been America's "Black prima donna," repeatedly refusing to get his hands dirty, or to fight back at the Republicans, scared he may be characterized as an "angry black man." But now that he has his back up against the wall, he is back on the stump bouncing around out in the center of the ring like Rush Limbaugh. Most of us, his supporters, are asking: Where was he when we desperately needed a vigorous advocate of progressive causes at the dais of the Bully Pulpit?
But his most telling weakness has been the fact that he has not been much of a party leader, with Bill Clinton "out front" acting as his more illustrious "Assistant President," the party has drifted and languished without a coherent agenda or message. It underscores the fact that the Democrats as a party, are in a severe drift, simply follows the lead of the Republicans. Having no agenda of their own to speak of, and being unwilling to fight for progressive ideas and principles, Mr. Obama has been worse than ineffectual as a Party leader. He has not coordinated a party strategy designed to retake the Congress, which he will desperately need if he is to be an effective lame duck president. What this means to the average voter is that due primarily to Mr. Obama's own aloof prima donna-like performance, if he is re-elected it will just spell four more years of the same continuous Congressional gridlock that we have seen throughout his first four years. In these trying times, that would be a fate almost as bad as having GW back for another eight years.
As the "Blue Dogs" within the Democratic Party (like Joe Lieberman) have repeatedly shown, there is no down side to opposing their own party leader's initiatives. Leadership weaknesses do not get any worse than this. In contrast, when Republican Party members wander off the reservation, the Republican Party leader yanks their chains and disciplines them swiftly and rather brutally.
2. Mr. Obama is perceived to have double-crossed his base.
By abandoning them early on, in obvious pandering to the right wing, gratuitously referring to them as "whiners" and "professional liberals," Mr. Obama lost the faith of many progressives, who will now relish seeing him defeated, me included. Our loyalty was never just to Mr. Obama the Black man, but to in his policies and to his vision for the country. And Mr. Obama has proven to us, his base, that at best he is little more than a moderate Republican, a Republican lite, as it were. In fact if one compares his record to that of President Richard Nixon, who progressives despised, Nixon comes out on top on the key progressive issues that we thought Mr. Obama would fight hard for. For instance, Nixon was stronger than Obama on the environment (he started the EPA, introducing the clear air clean and water act, OSHA, etc. Even on civil rights issues, Nixon was responsible for Affirmative Action and considered establishing inner city enterprise zones, etc.) For Obama, environmental and civil rights issues have both been off the table, as part of his not so subtle triangulating to the right. On the other hand and on the negative side, just like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Obama too has proven to be a calculating slick backroom Machiavellian operator: not exactly what his base thought he would be, but exactly what his Minister of 20 years predicted he would be.
3. Mr. Obama has no Democratic Agenda that he will fight for and seems not to know how to negotiate effectively.
In one of the most bizarre acts ever seen by a professional politician, Mr. Obama actually used the Republican rather than his own democratic agenda to set the terms of debate and as the basis for initiating all of his negotiations? He did this throughout his entire first term. Then, in a maneuver that in retrospect seems equally bizarre, having already out-sourced all of the negotiations to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reed, he then allowed them to trade away most of his political capital by repeatedly caving-in to every Republican demand, all as a unilateral and pre-emptive sacrifice to the non-existent altar of political bipartisanship.
Without fail however, what invariably emerged, fit a predictable pattern that became the signature of Mr. Obama's first four years: He would stake out a position on the Republican side of the negotiating table, and then repeatedly cave in even further, until his opponents had everything they asked for and he had nothing but the crumbs that remained? Following his loses, he would then, as if choreographed, give a posturing, gauzy, post-negotiation speech claiming, like Neville Chamberlain, that he had heroically snatched victory from rather transparent defeats. Then he would serve up to us, his base, the residual loser's consolation prize of crumbs as if we were too stupid not to see that the Republicans had solidly beat him and won everything. With all of his smooth post-negotiation tap-dancing, Mr. Obama could do nothing to conceal the fact that all that was left for the public to see was a shameful continuous trail of him squandering all of his political capital by repeatedly caving to the Republicans. Sadly, this was done as a suicidal attempt to try to garner even a sliver of bipartisanism, always with the hope that the right would like him and embrace him as one of their own. But that too was a spectacular failure, as the Republicans, with Blue Dog democratic help, just repeatedly publicly snubbed, stiffed and insulted him.
4. Minority support for Mr. Obama is softer than the polls show, or that anyone could ever imagine.
After four years of artfully dodging them, like they were the ugly date at the prom, neither Blacks nor Hispanics fully trust Mr. Obama, or have the same level of enthusiasm for his reelection appeals this time around as they did in 2008. Both believe that he backslid and triangulated on all issues dear to them. And given the way he treated them both, how could they not?
Even though the polls show that his black support remains strong, my anecdotal polls contradict this assessment. Most blacks profoundly distrust Mr. Obama because he has clearly and consciously "distanced " himself from them. Plus, he has not been out front on any of their issues, even when doing so would have been in the best interests of the country as a whole -- like improving the cities and a jobs program for the poor, etc. In fact, even though his "Assistant President," Bill Clinton, has a warm and trustful relationship with inner city America, Mr. Obama has been unable to mouth the words "black," "poor" or "inner city" throughout his presidency. He seems to have been hoping against hope that he would not be branded the "first Black President," even though he is precisely that; and even though whether he likes it or not, he is in the black voters debit for their overwhelming support of his presidency.
In the history of the Republic, no group has ever supported a President of the U.S. at the 95% level as blacks have done for Mr. Obama. Despite this, few Blacks have missed his repeated backhanded insults and "distancing" maneuvers. The best evidence of this is that whenever issues dear to blacks have come up on Mr. Obama's plate, he has carefully, quickly and repeatedly sidestepped them with a demeaning mantra that "he is the President of all the people." Quietly, blacks feel tremendously injured and betrayed by this treatment which mimics that they used to receive from Southern racists. And I am here to tell you that these feeling of betrayal will indeed show up in November 2012 -- both in lack of enthusiasm and in votes against Mr. Obama in the voting booth by blacks.
As well, there are other reasons why many blacks no longer trust Mr. Obama and thus are not as enthusiastic about him this time around as they were last time. One is the repeated and gratuitous insults he has reserved exclusively for Blacks. In Atlanta, for instance, he blamed black male irresponsibility for the inner city social meltdown; and ended a speech before the Congressional Black Caucus by telling members of that august body, to get up off their couches and out of their house shoes and back into the game? And then of course there were the Shirley Sherrod and Skip Gates incidents, which did not inspire confidence among his black constituents, since Mr. Obama handled both incidents like a rank amateur.
Likewise with Hispanics: they too have seen Mr. Obama engage in duplicitous behavior regarding their issues. Smiling in their faces, while aggressively tightening immigration loopholes and greatly increasing deportations, behind their backs. Also, up until it looked like Mark Rubio might become Mr. Romney's running mate, Mr. Obama had only engaged in sweet talk on Hispanic issues. However, now with the emergence of Mr. Rubio as the likely Romney VP, Mr. Obama has belatedly proven that he does indeed know how to act, but only when his election chances seem threatened. That kind of calculated hypocrisy has a way of flipping not just Hispanic voters, but all voters, just as they close the curtains behind them as they enter the voting booth.
5. Under Mr. Obama, the Wall Street Criminals have not just gotten off scot-free, but also have gotten another free ride on the Merry-go-round of America's Casino capitalism.
A litmus test for most voters, including independents, has been to see what this President would do to crack down on the criminals on Wall Street, meaning those responsible for the great crash of 2007-8. It does not seem that Mr. Obama has passed that test? What the American people saw did not inspire further confidence in Mr. Obama's leadership qualities, and at the same time, called into question his chummy relationship with the architects of that crash. Again we get to see him play the Obama shell game: On the one hand he supported and passed limp-wristed legislation that he touted as historic, while on the other hand and in the background and in the backrooms of K-Street, he made sure that the legislation contained enough loopholes to drive a Mack truck through and thus keep his Big Dog Wall Street contributors happy -- the American economic system be-damned. Now he is banking on the fact that we will see Romney as potentially much worse? But since we were wrong about him we could also be wrong about Mitt.
Also, it certainly did not help Mr. Obama's cause that the leaders of the gang of four, the real architects of the financial crash, landed with their feet firmly planted inside his administration, holding down all of the most important and the most prominent positions within it. But even more importantly, as the recent three billion dollar lost by Merrill-lynch (because of more Wall Street Casino gambling with investor's money) revealed, the Obama legislation designed to close the floodgates that allowed the crash to happen, seem uniformly inept and ineffectual. Glass-Steigall was not restored, credit default swap continue as they did before, etc.
There are few people who do not believe that as a result of Obama's weak legislation, and his weak commitment to fixing the holes in our financial infrastructure, another crash is just around the corner. Worse yet, no one on Wall Street has gone to jail. And even with their 800 billion dollar bailout, it is business as usual back on Wall Street, with Main Street still on life support and obscene bonuses still flowing in the banks that are still "too big to fail -- all under Mr. Obama's careless watch. And to add insult to injury, Mr. Obama failed to stand behind Elizabeth Warren, a proven warrior in the fight against Wall Street corruption. Even many Republicans were rooting for her.
6. Mr. Obama still carries the yoke of the Jeremiah Wright syndrome. Reverend Jeremiah Wright accused Mr. Obama of being just another (cheap) Chicago Politician, and sadly Mr. Obama has done little to disavow us of his ex-Minister's characterization of him. In fact, arguably he has done more to confirm Wright's characterization than to dispel it. For instance, Mr. Obama has been accused by at least one author of playing a double game with his base: As he tells it, Mr. Obama's rich contributors get to sit at the table where largesse is dutifully doled out, while the poorer ones, the largest part of his base, are allowed only to eat "Red state-Blue state symbol pie." Moreover, Mr. Obama is so heavily engaged in triangulating that he hardly makes a move without first consulting his pollsters. Rev. Wright could not have been more correct: after four years, Mr. Obama comes off as little more than a prima donna Machiavellian manipulator, who is scared of his shadow, scared to get his hands dirty and one who has no issues that he will either make a full commitment to, or take a firm public stand, on.
7. The Obama's message of "hope and change" has been garbled and then quickly abandoned by the Hope Meister himself.
The Obama vision of hope and change either evaporated into thin air early on in his first year, or was dead on arrival. In either case, Mr. Obama quickly abandoned them both. In fact, abandoning his own pet projects and principled promises, seem to be a defining characteristic of the Obama management style. His ability to quickly abandon his own pet projects and to show no commitment to any issues, including his signature healthcare initiative, is a disturbing index of why his leadership style is constantly being challenged and called into question.
The only projects that Mr. Obama has stood firmly behind are: his killing of Osama bin Laden, and the Tarp loan he gave to bailout the Detroit automakers. But the worse part of this is that instead of instilling and infusing more confidence in the American political system, Mr. Obama's thinly veiled Machiavellian moves -- failing to make commitments or take principled stands, double-crossing his base, triangulating and tacking to the right, out-sourcing legislation, hiding behind the Oval Office desk, trying to split the moral baby instead of defending it -- has done just the opposite. Young people are as disgruntled and disillusioned as are Blacks and Hispanics. Surely they will not fight in the trenches for Mr. Obama this time like they did in 2008.
8. This time, Mr. Obama is not running Against the Village Idiot:
Arguably, this time Mr. Obama IS the new village idiot, or at least his clone. Considering that Mr. Obama, despite his rhetoric, has adopted almost all of GW's failed policies, he can no longer credibly separate himself from the Republican Party's failed agenda. Most of his broken promises occurred because he hewed a course much too close to the failed Bush policies. Even Republicans see him as a GW clone. It leaves a reasonable Democrat, not just those who are disillusioned with him, scratching their heads and asking the following question: Given that neither Democrats nor Republicans bought into Mr. Obama's act as a "pretend Republican," maybe there is a better chance of getting rid of the gridlock in Congress by electing a "real White Republican" instead of a "pretend fake Black one?" Doing so, certainly can be no worse than painfully watching Mr. Obama wriggling as he continues to "tack" to the right, all the while allowing the Republicans to disrespect him.
9. Unlike in 2008, in 2012, Mr. Obama is destined to lose the numbers game.
Anyway you cut it, the average voter is going to see that in his first term, Mr. Obama was dealt a great hand that he proceeded to play badly. He began with the nation literally eating out of his hand. Even the most rabid racists were held in check by his aura and the enthusiasm for him and the vision he had for America's future. That is, until they realized that "this guy is soft" and "can be had."
Unwisely, Mr. Obama began his Presidency by again trying in vain to win the racists voters to his side. Any fool could see that for many reasons this was not going to happen. It was a losing strategy from the start. The least of the reasons was that most people, including many racist whites who supported Mr. Obama the first time around, did so not because they loved him so much, or because he self-identified with blacks, or because they thought he was so great, but for one reason and one reason only: to get rid of the village idiot, who had screwed up the country so badly. Mr. Obama and his handlers seemed to have misunderstood and underestimated the importance of this overriding voter motivation. To them, even an untried black man was seen as being preferable to Junior.
Over estimating the love the public had for him, Mr. Obama proceeded in a suicidal effort to try to win over and bind the conservative and Blue-collar whites to him. The way he did it was heavy-handed, cheap, transparent, and revealed more about Mr. Obama and his style of politics than anything else he has done in office. By shamelessly "triangulating" and "tacking" to the right, (pandering to the racists is a more accurate way to put it), Mr. Obama revealed himself to be exactly as his Minister of 20 years had described him: "just another (cheap) Chicago Politician." The way he "triangulated" and "tacked" was by using his own unsubtle "anti-Liberal/anti-Black dog whistle:" publicly chastising his base by calling liberals "whiners" and "professional complainers," insulting blacks, calling them irresponsible and telling the CBC to get off their couches and out of their house shoes, etc. and then also aggressively deporting illegal aliens. In short, by thumbing his nose at his own base, Mr. Obama had hoped to increase and consolidate his appeal to "so-called" independents and blue collar racist ideological Republicans.
Arguably, this strategy has backfired on him. For all it did was leave a bitter taste in the mouth of his base, and gained him nothing among those who voted for him simply to get the village idiot out of office. What Mr. Obama is up against now is his own over-reach and failed Machiavellian political strategy. He has finessed everyone in the political universe: the independents, blue-collar whites, blacks, Hispanics, youths, and liberals. So where can he now turn?
Oh yes, to the non-existent moderates. A little known fact about American politics is this: during hard times, there are no moderates; it's just a vacuous label. During hard times like those of today, people only want results, and when they go into the voting booths this November they are only going to ask one question: Did Mr. Obama get us results? And the answer they are going to get, will resoundingly be no! Mr. Obama did not deliver, period. Where are the Obama jobs, and even an Obama jobs program? Why is he not in Congress fighting to get his bills through? The answer is, Mr. Obama fights only for the one thing that all professional politicians fight for: To get re-elected.
10. All the racists who voted for Mr. Obama the first time it order to get rid of the Village Idiot, will go back home to the Republican Party this time.
When Mr. Obama won in 2008, his political operatives, Axelrod, Emanuel and Pouffle looked like geniuses only because they got a free ride off of GW's back, and apparently they and Mr. Obama have been too naïve to realize the full value of this windfall. This time, those members of "Team Obama" (who have not already jumped ship) are in for a shock. They will discover that the old election calculus and coalition of 2008 will not work at all this time around. The racists, who voted for Mr. Obama the first time, have seen enough. They will go back home to the GOP. And many blacks that voted for Mr. Obama thinking he was one of them, will not go to the polls at all because Mr. Obama stiffed and mocked them, feeding them Kool-Aid and symbolism instead of real programs. They discovered after all that he was not one of them, but was just as Rev Wright had described him: another cheap Chicago politician.
Hispanics, as quiet as it is kept are more, not less racist towards blacks, than the typical American blue collar white, and given even half a chance they, like poor and blue collar whites, will vote for anyone except a black man. No matter what Mr. Obama does, his ability to hold onto the Hispanic vote is entirely out of his hands. It will depend (as will be the case with much of this election) on what Mr. Romney does or does not do.
If Romney runs a skillful campaign, subtly using racist dog whistles against Mr. Obama, its Kathy barred the door for our first black President. On the other hand, if Mr. Romney keeps his foot in his mouth, as he has been doing recently, Mr. Obama still will have a slim chance of pulling off a win.
But even then he has to contend with the racist vote, writ large, which will mostly be hidden from the polls. A recent Harvard study suggested that in the last election, the hardcore "in the voting booth racist" vote cost Mr. Obama from 5-7% of the vote total. This time, conservatively, any reasonable prediction would recommend at least doubling that number. Add these imponderables that lean against him, to the fact that his numbers will fall dramatically among Blacks, who will not go to the polls this time; and Hispanics, who even when Mr. Obama is catering to them, will only vote for him under even the best of conditions, while holding their noses; and the youth, who have lost all enthusiasm for their Black prince, and it is easy to see that our first Black President's re-election chances are slime to none.
Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at Seattle. A graduate of the National War College and a Phd from the University of Southern California.