Monday, March 9, 2009

So what?

Much is being written about disillusioned Obama supporters in the media. The references turn up in a lot of places but Jennifer Rubin has thoughtfully collected what seems to be a fairly complete list*: Chris Buckley, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, David Gergen, Marty Peretz, and Jim Cramer. Now neoneocon has posted a graph showing that although Obama’s “Strongly Approve” ratings are dropping little if at all, Obama’s “Strongly Disapprove” ratings are moving up fairly sharply. She provides an interesting and I think convincing explanation for this and says that she hopes she is spotting a trend.

My reaction to all this is, “So what?” Obama supporters in the media can be disillusioned from here to Kingdom Come, his rank and file supporters can disapprove as strongly as possible, and it won’t for one second change the fact that he is President until at least 2013 (or 2012 if his successor makes him as marginal as he made Bush). So long as the Congress is controlled by Democrats and the Democrats are willing to approve Obama’s policies - and he is willing to approve theirs - it doesn’t make a darn bit of difference how low his approval ratings go, how high his disapproval ratings go, or how many media pundits withdraw their support.

I imagine those who think Obama Disillusionment will stop his policies in their tracks are counting on Congress to react to that disillusionment and provide the stopping power. I think they’re dreaming at least in the short term. As I said at neoneocon:

... I’m not sure what will change even if Obama’s approval drops like a rock. He’s President until 2012 so if he’s as willing as Bush was to ignore his numbers then the fact that fewer and fewer people approve of him won’t change what policies he pursues. What could change the outcome is for him to lose Congress. It seems to me there are two ways this could happen and I don’t think worsening approval ratings for Obama are enough to cause either although they may contribute.

First, Democrats in the House and Senate could become sufficiently disenchanted with Obama to begin opposing his policies. This will probably happen if the economy continues to worsen although I think Obama has until the beginning of 2010 before Democrats start jumping ship.

Second, the 2010 elections could cause a significant change in the composition of the House and bring Democrats far enough below 60 votes so they can’t do as they please without significant (rather than minimal) Republican buy-in. The Democrats have a substantial margin in the House and an awful lot of Senate seats seem as safe as houses (although that may not be the best analogy right now) so I’m not hopeful about this - unless the economy in October 2010 is as bad as or worse than it is right now. (And even with my burning desire to say “I told you so” I can’t really hope for that.)

Republicans would have to pick up 40 seats to control the House.

As for the Senate, according to Wikipedia:

There are 16 currently Democratic Senate seats that are considered safe (10), likely (5), or leaning (1) Democratic in 2010.

There are 14 currently Republican Senate seats that are considered safe (9), likely (2), or leaning (3) Republican in 2010

There are 1 Democratic and 5 Republican Senate seats that are considered toss-ups.

In other words, I don’t think we’re going to get a reprieve from Obama’s policies until at least the beginning of next year however bad his approval ratings get.

Perhaps I was channeling my blog’s namesake when I wrote that comment because this morning at The Corner I found a link to “Administration Backers Plead for Patience on Economic Recovery Efforts”. Here’s one Senator’s timeline (emphasis mine):

"It does take some time before things -- before people realize that the substance is actually getting better. My guess is that'll start later this year or the first part of next year, and we're moving aggressively to make sure that it does," said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind.

Yup, the beginning of next year.

I don’t think this is unreasonable by the way. The Obama administration inherited an unholy mess and however convinced I may be that they’re doing nothing right and much wrong in fixing it, they seem perfectly within their rights to argue they can’t clean up in less than two months a disaster that was years in the making. What it means, however, is that everyone who is gratified those who supported Obama are starting to see the error of their ways will have to forego their hopes for substantive change and do what I’m doing: look forward to saying “I told you so” as the disillusionment trickles down to friends and relatives.


*Rubin even includes “that gynecological sleuth and blogger Andrew Sullivan” among the disillusioned but I don’t buy it. In a June post entitled, “Obama vs The Successful”, Sullivan made it clear he knew that Obama planned to soak the rich to shore up Social Security and explained why the poor man had no choice:

[Obama’s] plans for social security amount to essentially a massive new tax on the successful to keep FDR's system afloat [snip]

There's no point in disguising this: Obama will punish those who succeed in order to funnel benefits to those who haven't. Yes: he's a liberal. But Bush never dealt with the fiscal reality - preferring to borrow the money from the Chinese. In that sense, these hikes are Bush's hikes as well.

I’m sure Sullivan will quickly collect himself together and recycle the same “Bush made him do it” logic to excuse Obama’s current “massive increase in government spending and power with the only fiscal balance being wringing much more money from the successful.”

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