[Posted by Karl]
Jonathan Bernstein (seemingly dumbing down his punditry for Greg Sargent’s audience) argues the GOP is trapped in its echo chamber, running against a fantasy Obama or two. The first is basically a fraud who never held a job before he somehow wound up the Democratic nominee in 2008. The other is a scheming, nefarious, stealth left-winger who any day now is going to unleash his radical socialist agenda.
As many have noted, these two Obamas are somewhat at odds with each other. But the more important point is that neither version builds a convincing case against supporting Obama in 2012. No one is going to buy that Obama is too inexperienced to be president; no one is going to buy that he has some secret agenda that remained secret during four years in the White House.
This is fairly rich, given the Democrats spent about a decade painting George W. Bush as an incompetent ideologue. Moreover, Bernstein here falls back on the Obamaesque habit of beating strawmen.
When Mitt Romney says of Obama, “It’s hard to create a job if you never had one,” anyone outside the Democrat bubble recognizes it as Romney contrasting his business experience with Obama’s lack thereof. The vast majority of jobs Obama has held have been government jobs, including the top one… and how’s that working out for everybody? The Obama recovery is among the worst in modern history — and not because we had a sharp recession due to a financial panic.
Consider Obama’s big economic ideas. Obama and top Democrats hyped their government stimulus plan, but field studies bear out the general perception that it failed. Indeed, the stimulus became the butt of a joke from Obama himself, not Mitt Romney. Many Americans, from the unemployed to those whose taxes were wasted, found it unfunny.
Obama’s other economic hobby horse has been government-driven “green jobs.” Aside from scandals like Solyndra, this initiative has been criticized by Congressional Democrats and the Brookings Institution. Obama’s most recent “jobs bill” was also panned by Congressional Democrats. Thus, it’s no surprise that most people disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy — according to the Pollster.com average, not Mitt Romney. Obama’s campaign to convince voters that “America is back” is a dud (even self-identified Democrats barely believe it) — according to Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, not Mitt Romney.
As for Obama being a left-winger, most people do not think he has been very stealthy about it. On top of the unpopular stimulus, Obama helped a Democratic Congress ram through an expansion of government control over the healthcare sector that was both vast and politically damaging to its supporters. Poll after poll shows more want to repeal Obamacare than keep it; overwhelming numbers think its mandate is unconstitutional. Obama’s preferred cap-and-tax energy policy was too extreme to pass a Democratic Senate. TNR’s Noam Scheiber (not a wingnut) suggests Obama may let the Bush tax cuts expire if he is reelected. A majority of Americans see Obama as too liberal. Americans see the ideology of the GOP candidates — including Bachmann and Santorum — as closer to theirs than Barack Obama’s ideology. Even among so-called independents, only Bachmann scored as more extreme than Obama. Only 37% of likely voters identify more closely with Obama than with his Republican rivals.
According to Gallup (not the GOP), Obama’s most recent approval rating with “pure independents” rests at 34%. Is this because of Obama vast experience creating abundant jobs with decent wages? Or is it because of his moderate approach to government? I don’t know how Bernstein would answer these questions, but I blame Fox News Channel. And Booosh!
If Bernstein thinks the GOP imagines a fantasy Obama, he might try looking on the left side of the aisle. Their fantasy Obama “saves or creates” jobs in self-fulflilling CBO simulations instead of net jobs in the real economy. Their fantasy Obama is imagined by those who thought Obamacare would be popular once everyone found out what was in it. Their fantasy Obama never met a problem that couldn’t be solved by speeches (which failed to move public opinion). Their fantasy Obama is the product of a series of narratives that do not stand up to serious scrutiny. Their fantasy Obama is imagined by the people who will conveniently overlook how many of the sources I have just linked are Democrats, lefty pundits and neutral sources.
Sooner or later, Barack Obama will leave the White House. The fantasy that only Republicans have an echo chamber may never disappear.