I remarked the other day that I am getting the feeling Barack Obama will be the first president since Grover Cleveland to be voted out of office, and then win the White House back in a future election (either 2016 or 2020). The defeat will come off this “split the difference” charade with the hardcore radicals in the Republican Party, (the so-called Tea Party), and the fact that the Administration wasted so much time in 2010–and especially 2011–trying to “reach out” for “bipartisan solutions”. What, in fact, has been needed is bold leadership.
We are going to hear a lot about this unfortunate trajectory in 2012, so get used to it.
What is doing Obama in is the simple fact that the economy remains in a funk. As long as it is stuck, the odds of Obama staying in go down—even though a majority (I saw 51%-31%) rightly blame President Bush for the troubles we still all face.
President Obama is losing popularity, however, because he doesn’t do anything to change matters. You can’t just hang around Washington and wait for the other side to notice how reasonable you are. You actually have to start putting forth serious policy initiatives that are going to get your opposition upset. Somewhere along the line, it sounds like this sort of approach was taken off the table early in the Obama Adminstration. When good (i.e. liberal or Democratic) proposals are made, they are shot down early by some objection. Then, as a result, only the lukewarm ones, or whatever appeals to the other side (that didn’t vote for Obama in the first place) is what is left there.
I, for one, am tired of it. If Obama is going to be an old-style fiscal conservative Republican, then any number of people are going to say: might as well just vote for a real Republican. This won’t just be the progressive wing, the (friendly) FireDogs and Young Turks (who are old enough to be grandfathers). This is going to be that everyday middle of America. By late 2012, there will be nothing spectacular–or different–about Obama. So, many people who would have been enthusiastic for him will give tepid support; and those who could take him or leave him in 2008 will leave him.
Obama retains a power base to be an influence in the Democratic Party for the next 20 years–or more. It’s not unlikely that he’ll be the nominee again, if he doesn’t win in 2012. We could very well see a President Obama being inaugurated on January 20, 2017–much more chastened and with better defined political bona fides than he has now (as a sitting president, no less!) Or maybe January 20, 2021.
This negative result would be fitting for the first term of the Obama Presidency. “Let’s go in to negotiate, and then give the Republicans everything they want.” Well, Obama wants a second term. The Republicans want to be in the White House the next term.
So the compromise is give the Republicans the White House for 2013-2017, and then you try to get it back in 2016.
[Update 4/1/12: Surprisingly, after last summer, the tune changes from the White House.]