|The stunning decline of Barack Obama 2011 edition: 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency continues to melt down |
In August last year I published a list of ten key reasons why the Obama presidency was in serious decline. This is a sequel to that post, which was one of the most read pieces on The Telegraph website in 2010. Twelve months on, the outlook continues to look exceedingly bleak for President Obama, with no sign of a recovery.
July was the worst month for the Obama presidency since the November mid-terms which saw his party emphatically drubbed in Congressional elections across the country. The president hit an all-time low with a Gallup poll at the end of the month giving him just 40 percent approval, with his rating among independents plummeting to just 34 percent. The outlook became even worse at the start of August, with dramatic falls in the stock market, and the historic decision by credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s to downgrade America’s debt.
As the latest RealClear Politics average of polls shows, less than a quarter of Americans believe the country is moving in the “right direction,” a damning indictment of the first 30 months of the Obama presidency. According to Rasmussen, that figure is as low as 14 percent, the lowest level of public confidence since November 2008.
I’ve outlined below ten key reasons why the Obama presidency continues to flounder, after a very short-lived bounce in the spring.
1. Obama isn’t trusted on the economy
A series of recent polls have demonstrated significant public discontent with President Obama on the economy, the number one issue for US voters. A Washington Post/ABC Newssurvey in late July reported that 57 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, 60 percent disapprove of his handling of the federal budget deficit, and 52 percent are unhappy with the president on job creation. A July 21 poll for Gallup showed US economic confidence plunging to its lowest level since March 2009, with just 26 percent of Americans saying the economy is “getting better.” According to Gallup, more than two thirds of Americans now say the economy is “getting worse.” The latest Rasmussen survey shows consumer confidence “just one point above the lowest levels of the last two years” with investor confidence “down nine points from a week ago, down 12 points from a month ago, and down 29 points from three months ago. Investor confidence has not been lower since March 13, 2009.”
2. Obama isn’t serious about the budget deficit
That’s certainly the opinion of credit agency Standard and Poor’s, which downgraded America’s AAA credit rating for the first time in 70 years, in early August. As the Congressional Budget Office revealed in a January report, the deficits generated by the Obama administration are the largest since the end of World War Two, after two years of unchecked and out of control federal spending. And as I noted in a piece on the S&P decision last week:
Since President Obama took office in January 2009, the United States has embarked on the most ambitious failed experiment in Washington meddling in US history. Huge increases in government spending, massive federal bailouts, growing regulations on businesses, thinly veiled protectionism, and the launch of a vastly expensive and deeply unpopular health care reform plan, have all combined to instill fear and uncertainty in the markets.
3. Obama’s foreign policy remains a weak-kneed and confusing mess
US foreign policy under President Obama remains a staggering mess. With a policy of “leading from behind”, Washington’s approach towards the war in Libya has been a sea of dithering and contradiction, with no discernible end goal in sight. The Obama administration has acted like a deer in the headlights in the face of momentous changes in the Middle East, and was caught napping by developments in both Egypt and Syria. In the face of the Iranian nuclear threat, the United States has been largely passive, content to pursue a foolhardy policy of engagement while Tehran edges closer to building a nuclear weapon. Over in Europe, the Russian reset has emboldened Moscow, while undermining key allies in eastern and central Europe. Obama has paid scant attention to the transatlantic alliance, weakening the Special Relationship with Britain, and sleepwalking while NATO declines. It is difficult to think of a US foreign policy that could be more ineffective that the one pursued by this administration, with the hardly surprising result that confidence in US leadership has dramatically fallen across the world since Obama took office.
4. Independents are deserting the president
In contrast to Bill Clinton, who moved to the centre after the emphatic Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, Barack Obama has shown little inclination to do so. This is a rigidly ideological presidency with a distinctly left-wing vision and agenda. Unsurprisingly, independents have been deserting Obama in droves, a huge cause for concern for the White House as it looks to November 2012.
A Gallup survey at the end of July found just 37 percent of independents backing Obama, his lowest level of support from this group since he took office, a fall of ten points since the end of May, and down from 62 percent at the start of his presidency. A Pew Research Center survey, conducted in late July, also showed a dramatic drop in support for the president among registered independent voters, with significant implications for the presidential elections. As Pew noted in its report:
The sizeable lead Barack Obama held over a generic Republican opponent in polls conducted earlier this year has vanished as his support among independent voters has fallen off. Currently, 41% of registered voters say they would like to see Barack Obama reelected, while 40% say they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win in 2012. In May, Obama held an 11-point lead.
This shift is driven by a steep drop-off in support for Obama among independents… just 31% of independent voters want to see Obama reelected, down from 42% in May and 40% in March. Where Obama held a slim 7-point edge among independent registered voters two months ago, a generic Republican holds an 8-point edge today.
5. A majority of Americans still reject Obamacare
President Obama has stubbornly refused to back down over his hugely costly health care reform plans, commonly dubbed “Obamacare”, despite significant public opposition to them. In many ways, Obamacare is a political albatross around Obama’s neck as he heads towards 2012. The RealClear Politics average for May to July has 50.8 percent of Americans opposed to Obamacare, with just 38.6 percent in favour. Rasmussen, which tracks the issue closely, has the level of opposition to Obama’s health reforms running currently at 55 percent. CNN’s most recent polling in June placed public opposition at 56 percent. Strikingly, out of 50 polls conducted on Obamacare since the start of 2011 and listed by RealClear Politics, only two (Rasmussen in January and Gallup in March), show more support than opposition for the president’s plan.
6. The Obama presidency looks increasingly out of touch with the American people
There is a disturbing let them eat cake mentality projected by the Obama White House, whether the president is advocating higher taxes in the face of a possible double dip recession, or hosting elaborate parties while 45 million Americans depend on food stamps. No US presidency in modern times has been more elitist or out of touch than the present one, which exudes the kind of condescending left-wing snobbery that is normally the preserve of an ivory tower common room. President Obama looks increasingly aloof and out of sync with the American people, three quarters of whom now believe the country is heading down the wrong track – including a staggering 58 percent of Democrats, according to Rasmussen.
7. Conservatism is growing stronger in America
While President Obama remains determined to shift the country to the Left, the American public is increasingly conservative in terms of ideology. There is a fundamental disconnect between the most ideologically driven liberal president in US history, and a large percentage of the American people. As Gallup’s latest survey on political views shows, conservatism is by far the leading ideology in the United States. According to Gallup, nearly twice as many Americans (41 percent) call themselves conservative, compared to those who describe themselves as liberal (21 percent). Conservatives also outnumber moderates (36 percent) by a five point margin. And among Republicans, 71 percent describe themselves as “very conservative” or “conservative”, compared to just 38 percent of Democrats who call themselves “very liberal” or “liberal”.
8. The Tea Party has been a stunning success
No article on Barack Obama’s stunning decline would be complete without mention of the Tea Party, which has been undoubtedly the most influential US political movement of the decade. The Tea Party’s relentless rise played a key role in sparking the conservative revolution that swept Capitol Hill last November, and has played a major role in setting the agenda when it came to the heated debates over government spending this summer. Were it not for the Tea Party, it is likely that the budget deficit would not be the central issue it is today, and federal spending would have remained a largely inside the beltway debate instead of the talk of dinner tables across America. A truly grassroots movement has succeeded in a short period of time in humbling a presidency, and challenging the status quo on Capitol Hill.
9. The Obama presidency comes across as bitter, nasty and divisive
Vice President Joe Biden’s recent attack on the Tea Party, supporting the charge by Democrat Congressman Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania that Tea Party Republicans had “acted like terrorists” over the debt issue, was symbolic of an emphatically partisan White House, that is increasingly lashing out aggressively at anyone who questions its policies. As I noted at the time:
There is something deeply sad and disconcerting when the vice president decides to compare opposition legislators in Congress with terrorists simply because he disagrees with their views and principles. This is the kind of ugly, threatening rhetoric that has no place at the heart of the US presidency… Joe Biden has clearly overstepped the line with his comments, and brought the office of the vice president into disrepute. His actions today are symbolic of a White House that increasingly looks bitter, crass and petty in its behaviour as public opinion moves firmly against it. Biden’s outburst is a sign of the Left’s growing desperation 30 months into the Obama administration, and only further reinforces the image of decline and decay sinking in at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
10. The liberal elites are turning on the president
One only has to read the pages of The New York Times, the flagship of America’s liberal elites, to see how some of the president’s most ardent left-wing supporters have begun to turn against him. Even :]Maureen Dowd despairs that her beloved president has been forced to make concessions to the Tea Party on the debt issue, quoting a Democrat Senator as saying: “we are watching him turn into Jimmy Carter right before our eyes.” And as for uber liberal Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman, Obama has supposedly “surrendered” to the Right. There is every sign of a vicious civil war breaking out on the Left, as disillusionment mounts with Obama. This will make it increasingly difficult for the president to present a united front as he campaigns for re-election, and he will have to contend with heavy sniping from powerful liberal voices, most of whom gave him unequivocal backing in 2008.
A presidency in decline
The omens are certainly not looking good for President Obama, as he approaches the final 16 months of his presidency. Public opinion has turned firmly against him in recent weeks, as it did in the months ahead of the November 2010 midterms. On the economy, undoubtedly the dominant issue for voters in 2012, he is on distinctly shaky ground, with his Big Government agenda increasingly distrusted by the American electorate, scorned by the financial markets, and given a vote of no confidence by credit agency Standard and Poor’s. By almost any measure, this is a presidency in steep decline and in serious trouble. This is looking like another ‘annus horribilis’ for Barack Obama, the ‘hope and change’ president who, on current trajectory, seems destined for failure, with a legacy of declining prosperity at home and dispiriting American weakness abroad.