Obama: Voters aren’t “thinking clearly”

Posted on October 18, 2010


With prospects of electoral losses looming, President Obama has taken to the campaign trail in the final weeks of the midterm election cycle to push hard for Democratic candidates in states he won just two years ago. Speaking at a Massachusetts fundraiser on Saturday, the President made remarks that at once speak to a political tone-deafness and a refusal to take sober stock of the electoral landscape:

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” Obama said Saturday evening in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. “And the country’s scared.”…

“You can respond in a couple of ways to a trauma like this,” Obama said, referring to the economy. “One is to pull back, retrench and respond to your fears by pushing away challenges, looking backwards. Another is to say we can meet these challenges and we are going to move forward. And that’s what this election is about.”

What’s so ironic about the President’s comments is that if he really is correct, and voters are expressing displeasure in the poll blindly out of fear, then Obama in part owes his election to such vision-clogging fear. The economic collapse of September 2008 evoked a sense of existential panic in many Americans, putting them in such a state of dismay that under the President’s psychoanalysis must have caused them the same myopia that is afflicting the electorate currently.

Of course, the reality is that American voters can’t so easily be explained away in either 2008 or 2010 – nor should they be the object of such shallow psychoanalysis. The President speaks as though the actions of Congress and his administration occurred in a parallel universe, and couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the state of the electorate. No, it’s just all that foreign money, evil GOP attack ads, and sour grapes about the economy. Ignore the doubters and full speed ahead.

I would submit that such rigidity may seem like ideological bravery to those inclined to support the majority of what has transpired over the last 20 months, but to those with even mild disagreement, it inspires nothing but aghast perplexity at what appears to be a total lack of responsiveness to anything resembling a rebuke from American voters. The loss of governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, the election of Scott Brown, the underwater poll numbers of health care reform at the time of its passage, the dropping approval ratings for both the President and Congressional Democrats – one would think all of these would give sober-minded Democrats at least momentary pause regarding their policies and their approach.

Instead, the President and his party blithely dismiss any and all dissenting blocs as crazies and wingnuts to be isolated and ignored, to the point now where the President seems able to dismiss the restless electorate as just a mild case of political indigestion, with more of Obama’s Pepto-Bismol the sure solution. This stance is a major reason why it’s my belief that Obama will not take the Clintonian approach of triangulation, which is both smarter politically and less divisive leading to a broadening of popular support. No, it seems that the President will be content to hunker down and accept whatever November 2nd brings with a massive grain of salt.

It will cement his status as a progressive hero for not yielding to the evil right – the only problem is that the President has also failed to yield to the rest of America. No worries, though, as only the foggy-headed and easily led would ever dare to question the wisdom and direction of his administration’s policies … right? Dismissing as ignorant rubes vast swaths of Americans is a gamble that the President seems comfortable to make, but in so doing he reinforces a perception of tone-deaf arrogance that may make his supporters smirk in agreement but energizes the opposition that much more.

Cross-posted at The Moderate Voice.

Posted in: News, Politics