[Posted by Karl]
If Obama is reelected with such terrible feelings about the national condition, it will be unprecedented in the history of public opinion polling. Obviously, that would be no little feat, so what this president is doing is a classic case of misdirection.
The country needs a bad guy to blame for its problems, so day in and day out Obama is providing them with a smorgasbord of villains from which to choose: Wall Street, Big Oil, the Tea Party, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church, and so on. In fact, virtually everything that comes out of this president’s mouth is about redirecting blame onto some straw man.
I am reminded of Pres. Andrew Shepherd’s rant about his opponent at the end of The American President:
I’ve known Bob Rumson for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Bob devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Bob’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Bob’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.
This is what screenwriter Aaron Sorkin thought (and likely thinks) conservatives do, but it is what the real president now does, chiefly picking various conservatives as his preferred objects of fear. Indeed, while liberals like Sorkin are fond of painting conservatives as unduly preying on nostalgia for a better time (the Golden Age fallacy), progressives like Obama reflexively defend what Walter Russell Mead calls the Blue Social Model — a 20th century approach to (and cause of) 21st century problems.
There is also the question of whether this is “how you win elections.” Historically, the answer is “no.” Jay casts his eye back to Truman’s 1948 campaign. In the past, Brendan Nyhan has suggested that the economic growth in Q2 of 1948 (and I would say Q4 of 1947 through Q2 of 1948) had more to do with Truman’s reelection than the conventional wisdom of that campaign suggests. Jay Cost (relying on Michael Barone) argues the slowdown in Q3 of 1948 was key. Based on the current economic forecasts, Pres. Obama seemingly has a lot riding on this rather academic argument.