[Posted by Karl]
Obama backer Mort Zuckerman has complained about Obama a number of times before. However, his latest WSJ op-ed raises the prospect of a so-called “competency crisis” — a charge we have seen elsewhere in the establishment media. It is an imaginary crisis, reflecting a cognitive dissonance that may affect the 2012 election beyond the opinion of one pundit with a touch of buyer’s remorse.
Zuckerman posits: “It is the president’s job to offer a coherent program for the twin threats of a static economy and an unsustainable explosion of our debts and deficits.” Yet in Zuckerman’s view, Obama is to be faulted for: (1) unrealistically suggesting our problems can be solved by higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires (although Mort supports such taxes); (2) failing to lay out serious tax reform proposals; (3) failing to address entitlement reform as baby boomers have begun to retire; and (4) not building alliances with businesses large or small.
Zuckerman suffers from cogintive dissonance because he backed a progressive ideologue for the presidency in 2008. In nerdspeak, Mort’s complaints are not bugs, but features of a progressive presidency. He is complaining that a shark is acting like a shark.
Moreover, Obama has been pretty competent in imposing his leftwing agenda on the country. Granted, the taxes passed during his term are not scheduled to take effect until after 2012 — and he has thus far failed at hiking taxes on the wealthy. But Obama got his massive Keynesian stimulus package, his virtual government control over our healthcare, and issued a record number of big-ticket regualtions of the remaining parts of the private sector (one EPA regulation is estimated to cost upwards of $90 billion per year). These accomplishments have done little to nothing to solve the big problems Zuckerman identified, causing his cognitive dissonance.
By itself, Zuckerman’s mental confusion is essentially irrelevant. His op-ed closes by asserting “the president will have to raise his game to win a second term, especially if the Republicans find a real candidate.” (Emphasis added.) Here, Zuckerman signals his willingness to let Obama scare him back into the Democratic fold. The 2012 GOP nominee will almost certainly be more open to tax and entitlement reform than Obama has been, but with the possible exceptions of Huntsman and Romney, doesn’t anyone who has observed Zuckerman over the years believe he would dismiss the rest of the GOP field?
However, Obama’s Zuckerman problem goes beyond Zuckerman. It goes beyond the higher-level Democrats who talk smack about him off the record.
Obama’s problem is manifest in the disillusioned hipsters who supported Obama so enthusiastically in 2008. Hipsters are not a huge demographic, but they tell us something about how serious the erosion in the youth vote is for Obama. Obama’s problem is manifest in the six-point advantage the GOP maintains with likely voters on the generic Congressional ballot.
Obama’s problem is laid bare in a recent PPP/Daily Kos/SEIU poll showing a record low in Democratic enthusiasm for 2012. Obama’s losses are not among the true believers, but among the so-called moderates (read the whole poll to see whay they’re so-called). Roughly 60% of liberals and conservatives are “very excited” to vote in 2012; only 40% of so-called moderates are.
The message of these trends is that there are many people with the Zuckerman problem who will never be asked publicly about their support for Obama. Some of them will resolve their cognitive dissonance the way Mort likely will, i.e., by deciding that the GOP nominee scares them too much. But many of them may resolve their cognitive dissonance they way Zuckerman suggests in his op-ed, i.e., by concluding Obama is incompetent — and thus not worth turning out to support in November 2012.
In 2008, Democrats had a five-point turnout advantage; in 2004, the partisan turnout was roughly equal. “Moderate” turnout was roughly 44-45% in both years, but went 60% for Obama in 2008, and only 54% for Kerry in 2004 (the difference being roughly 2% of the total). For that matter, Obama did better than Kerry with self-described conservatives. Obama’s incompetency is an illusion, but one that could prove fatal to his chances for re-election.