The Obama Watch

Democrats’ Wishful Thinking


Republicans won't save them from the Obama stigma.

By 8.28.14

WhiteHouse.gov
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Democrats are engaging in wishful thinking by claiming Republicans want Obama impeached. Democrats’ reality is that they are stuck with Obama. He has become their biggest political liability, which is only likely to get worse. The only thing that can save them is a Republican misstep.

Obama is down across the board — on policy, politically, and personally. Public perception of his policy has always been Obama’s greatest weakness and it has only gotten worse. On health care, the economy, immigration, and foreign policy — all today’s big issues — Obama’s job performance polls extremely poorly.

Unsurprisingly, Obama’s political performance is suffering accordingly. His job performance is at or near his presidency’s lows in most polls. The public appears to have reached a tipping point regarding his administration’s basic competency.

Even personally the president is suffering. Obama’s saving grace has been that people liked him, even as they disliked his policies. Now while they dislike his policies more than ever, they appear to like him less than ever. Obama’s “likability” appears gone.

The president’s fall has also been across the political spectrum. Having long ago lost Republicans, he is now seen negatively by a substantial margin among Independents. Even Democrats, who remain strongly supportive, are far below their near-unanimous support during his re-election.

With these negatives, small wonder Democrat candidates in close races are themselves running from Obama, rather than with him.

November could crystallize Democrats worse fears too. If they suffer another midterm debacle like Obama’s first, they will lose the Senate and fall further behind in the House.

All of this makes for a troubling next few years, when things could easily get worse.

Even should the economy improve, after almost six years of sub-par performance, would Obama still get credit? On Obamacare, is it likely that public perception will change dramatically — especially when penalties on uninsured individuals have yet to be assessed?

On immigration, Obama has tied his hands politically, so any improvement here will not be his doing. Finally, on foreign policy, it is just as easy to see things getting worse in the world’s hotspots, and hardest of all to see Obama having a hand in any getting better.

So what do Democrats have to hope for from a lame duck president who is already weak and getting weaker? Their sole hope is to “Clintonize” him. And for that they need Republicans.

Despite a strong economy, budget, and minimal foreign policy problems, Bill Clinton saw his presidency hanging by a thread following the Lewinsky scandal. Clinton was reduced to a laughingstock, a monologue punch line, and there was resignation speculation.

What saved Clinton was Republicans’ impeachment overreach. It converted Clinton into a sympathetic figure, in spite of himself.

Democrats would dearly love Republicans to do that again and save them from the Obama trajectory appearing before them. Their problem is that they have no viable means to accomplish it. Obama is neither improving nor leaving on his own. 



Democrats need to either fast-forward through the next two years or get Republicans to change the channel. Since the first option can’t happen, the latter is their real hope.

The flaw in this Democrat hope is that Republicans know both Obama’s current problems and their past mistake with Clinton. Republicans are not going to repeat their past and relieve Democrats of their present Obama problem — no matter how much Democrats wish they would.

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About the Author

J.T. Young served in the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a Congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.