Is Obama just the 2010 edition of Jimmy Carter?
Return with me to the late 1970s. "Tricky Dicky" Nixon had been forced to resign because of the scandal of Watergate, back in the day when American took scandals seriously. Ford was tarred with pardoning his boss, and for being too moderate. The country was suffering financially: economic stagnation and high inflation.
Jimmy Carter sold himself as the outsider who could restore trust in Washington.
But Carter was spectacularly poor as President. The surging Right-wingers tarred him as weak on defense and anti-American for his deal returning the Panama Canal and his round of arms limitation talks with the Soviets. His attempts to revive the economy by cutting government spending alienated his base without winning over conservatives. He was held responsible for the gas shortages that developed when OPEC raised oil prices. His attempt to motivate Americans to address the challenges facing them like mature adults, his "malaise" speech, was seen as negative and blaming. He developed no narrative about why America was in trouble and no vision about how to move forward.
Similarly, Obama. Surging T-Partiers have tarred him as socialist for his inadequate health care measure. His attempt to revive the economy with an insufficient stimulus plan and his failure of leadership on a host of issues important to progressives has alienated his base without winning over any conservatives. He is now held responsible for our continuing failures in 2 wars. In his triumphal moment of inauguration, he gave a flat speech about addressing our challenges as mature adults. He has developed no narrative about why we are in trouble and no vision about how to move forward.
Carter was primaried by liberal giant Ted Kennedy. Carter won the primary, but lost the election to a smooth-talking actor adored by the right-wing who had honed his media skills for years after his stint as governor of a Western state. A lot of the election turned on images of the confident,charismatic, sexy challenger trumping the inept, overly-professorial incumbent.
Though Reagan did not win by that huge a margin, he devoted his PR machine to touting the Reagan Revolution. He met over 70 times with Congresspeople to get his historic tax cut bill passed. He developed a clear narrative of good and evil in American life. He always kept his Right Wing base happy.
When is Obama going to wake up and smell the humus?