The Only Way Obama Can Save His Presidency

By John Judis, The New Republic - September 22, 2009

Barack Obama looks like he will succeed where three Democratic presidents, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton, so famously failed--by passing health care reform. That is an achievement for which posterity will likely reward him. But it may not help him and his party avoid setbacks at the polls.

Consider the danger signs slowly accumulating. The off-year gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia are usually a harbinger of political success or failure for the party in power. When Republicans George Allen and Christine Todd Whitman won those races in November 1993, it was a clear indication of trouble ahead for the Democrats nationally. Currently, Republicans are leading in the polls in both states--states that Obama won in 2008.

Then there are Obama's approval ratings and what they portend for the 2010 midterms. In January, when he gave his inaugural address, Obama enjoyed a 69 percent approval rating, with just 13 percent disapproving. Since late August, his approval numbers have been hovering around 50 percent, and his disapproval numbers have been mostly in the low forties. Clinton's ratings suffered a similar decline in his first year, and it spelled disaster for the 1994 congressional elections. The same thing appears to be happening again: If current polls hold up, Democrats could fail to keep Senate seats in Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, and Connecticut next year. Political analyst Charlie Cook has recently estimated that the Democrats could lose more than 20 House seats.

Are these signs of voter discontent the result of tactical errors by Obama? Would the numbers look different if he had given his impassioned defense of national health care in February, or if he and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had been tougher on the banks earlier this year? Perhaps these tactics would have led to a temporary bounce in Obama's popularity, but they would not have changed its overall trajectory. That's because Obama's fortunes are being driven mainly by one thing: not health care, but the economy.


Judis jumps back in the game joining The Editors in tentatively applauding Obama, Baucus and the insurance industry for being on the brink of health care "reform". Really, that's what he'll call it when it's his turn to drink the kool-aid. Or does he make the stuff now?

But why so long? Did Marty have him on suspension...or is he working on the new book, "My Long Road From Main Street To Wall Street: The Inflection Point Years"

And here we go again:


"The Republican Party Is Falling Apart At The Seams---Democrats Likely To Rule For Generations To Come!!"


"Polls Show Republicans Surging In Key States.....Obama, Democrats Risk Losing It All [OH GOD] Forever!!!"

You guys are fucking shameless!! Really, doesn't this sort of stuff EVER embarass you? ; o )

Judis apparently is here to help explain, "the only way Obama can pull his presidency back from the brink"

Again, you have to keep reminding yourself: This is The New Republic, not Reader's Digest....This is The New Republic, not Reader's Digest....This is the New Republic, not Weekly Reader.

It's sad, fellas.

And then of course: The History Lesson. FDR. Reagan. Clinton. The Ominous Parallels. Charts. What It All Means. What We Can Expect. How Obama Can Turn It Around. Or not.

But there is, in fact, one thing we can surely rely on. This: That if these "ominous" signs do portend danger for the Democrats we can count on the sheer political stupidity of millions of American voters to embrace the Republican Party for solutions. They're smart as a whip, aren't they?

Nothing here from Judis of course about organizing these voters from the left and bringing them marching to the Capitol with an actual 2,000,000 strong body count.

Aside to an old comrade:

What's wrong, John, is that "soooo 1960s"? Jesus Christ, man, what the fuck have you let them do to you? Is being accepted as "one of them" inside the beltway mainstream pundit....really something you are actually proud of now?!!! Hell, sure, I abandoned all that socialist bullshit years ago, but if I ever sink down as low as the stuff above, you've got my express permission to track me down and put me out of my fucking misery.

You've practically become David Broder, man!!!!

;;; ooo ))) [for old times sake]

george waltond/a

I wouldn't mind a chart that simply tracked disapproval and unemployment since disapproval has been polled. For that matter, we could throw in an approval line too. The presentation here raises two questions: First, what about the periods not shown? For example, I assume that Clinton's early first term troubles -- one of the precedents that is driving Judis's concerns -- could *not* be explained by unemployment, because that chart is not shown and Judis offers in passing a preemptive, economic explanation for its absence -- that is, Clinton was hit by "wage stagnation." But is wage stagnation really a good explanation for Clinton's Obama-esque early rise in disapproval? What about that other Obama-esque elephant in the room -- the health care reform controversy?

Second, how compelling would the charts look if a consistent unemployment scale were used, instead of one manipulated to make the lines coincide almost exactly? For example, if the Reagan chart's unemployment scale had been used for the Clinton chart, one would see his disapproval falling faster than unemployment. If that scale had been used for the Obama chart, it would appear that Obama's disapproval has risen much faster than unemployment. Indeed, it would look like Obama's disapproval has risen fairly quickly even as already high unemployment levels off following the end of its precipitous rise under Bush.

These questions about cherry-picking and chart tricks notwithstanding, I take Judis's point about the popular perception of trends in the economy. Even if the lines wouldn't match up just so in a different presentation, they would be going in about the same direction -- at least for the periods shown -- which is not surprising. "It's the economy, stupid" remains a formidable thesis. I especially like Judis's call for better marketing. (I've seen many road-side construction signs stating that the project is funded by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, complete with the little symbol they made up for it. But I doubt many notice them. The signs are green, like road signs, and use the same font, nobody recognizes the symbol, and "recovery and reinvestment" is a mouthful. How about big, clear, unique signs: "THIS IS A FEDERAL STIMULUS PROJECT -- CREATING JOBS FOR AMERICA." It's small, but you get the idea. As Judis says, trumpet your efforts and your success.)

But, what else is he proposing? Recognizing that actually changing the near-term jobs picture is unlikely, he urges Obama to look busy. As I said, with respect to marketing, that's a fine idea, but is that how *policy* should be designed? Judis may have in the forefront of his mind FDR's flashy flurry of activity which historians agree *did* capture the public imagination and *did* instill a sense of optimism, which is no trivial thing. Modern economies are driven by optimism -- a willingness to bet on a bright future. But looking busy as a substantive remedy only works if you've got credibility -- if it is *believed* that your efforts are working or will work. Obama does not face the same citizenry that FDR did. Today's population, it appears, is more broadly skeptical and cynical about such efforts, which seem more radical to more people than FDR's seemed then. Judis likes cash-for-clunkers, but that was overbroad and small potatoes anyway. What he's really asking Obama to do is to "keep pouring money into jobs and into the pockets of people who will spend until the unemployment rate begins going down and wages begin going up. That may mean a second stimulus ...." Fine! What should he do next, having abolished Congress and declared himself King of the Universe? Bring back Arrested Development?

Walton, you are insane and the sad thing is is that you don't know it. John Judis as David Broder is the dumbest thing that I have ever read on this website. Jonathan Chait - who is about a billion times smarter than you - wrote an excellent piece on the fact that even partial health care reform will be a radical step forward. But no, if you can't have the whole loaf, you don't want any of it. The late Richard Rorty wrote about your kind when he said that radicals desire the sublime while liberals are satisfied with the merely beautiful. Actually, he was writing about people far smarter than you but your attitude is redolent of his apercu.


Chait, Judis and Rorty [Rorty from the grave] can no doubt run rings around me intellectually. All academics can. But that doesn't make them any less subservient to the WHCD ilk that pervades the mainstream media. They ooze the newspeak of those who get almost all the information they think they need to know about the world around us....from each other. They all read the same stuff skewed left or right. They all think comfortably within the parameters of the inflection points that embrace state capitalism while still yammering on and on about stuff like freedom and democracy at home and abroad. As though the two the bump into each other only occasional with glancing blows.

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