25 June 2010

Sure Obama is unpopular. So what?

With the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing Obama's approval ratings in negative territory (disapproval higher than approval) for the first time, conservatives once again thump their chests and take heart in the inevitability of electoral victories ahead. Indeed, NBC/WSJ would seem to be a trailing indicator, if one follows Rasmussen or Gallup's daily tracking.

But is it really that bad for Obama?

History suggests that it is not. Obama's approval numbers and trend line are very similar to Ronald Reagan's, and better than Bill Clinton's through his first year and a half. Clinton had fallen as low as 37% approval during his first year, a point Obama has yet to hit. Reagan dropped below 50% in December 1981, and stayed below for nearly two years.

We keep waiting for the bottom to drop out of Obama's numbers, and maybe it will, but it hasn't yet. The American people are impatient, but they are also willing to give credit - deserved or not - to the man in the Oval Office.

Reagan, of course, inherited a dreadful domestic economy and a perilous world from Jimmy Carter. His bold initiatives eventually paid off, and the people loved him for that. Clinton benefitted greatly from circumstances beyond his control, as well as from the election of Republican majorities in Congress in 1994. The people never did love him (his "personal approval" numbers were, and are, abysmal,) but gave him high marks on the job because we are a practical people. Things seemed to be going okay, so why change?

So what about Obama? It is difficult to conceive of a circumstance in which the United States economy, resilient as it has proven to be, can weather the radical attacks on it and thrive despite Obama, but I think that is what it would take to help his numbers. In foreign affairs, there is no doubt he is making the world a more dangerous place, but unless those chickens come home to roost, it is unlikely the average voter will care. In fact, even a successful attack on the United States, caused by Obama's ineptitude, could give him a "rally 'round the flag" type of boost in approval - at least temporarily.

All of this is just to say, pay no attention to the poll numbers. The reason to defeat Obama is that his ideas, stuck in the 1930s and divorced from reality, are bad for our nation and for the world. That is the message. Whether or not he is personally popular is only important to his own dictatorial cult of personality.

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