Nicholas D. Kristof:
In short, Mr. Obama hasn’t mustered an argument that resonates even among the beneficiaries of his policies.
That’s a failure of politics and salesmanship, but it’s more than that. To a disconcerting number of people I talk to, Mr. Obama comes across as remote, detached, inauthentic and arrogant. All that’s deeply unfair, I think, but it’s the stark reality.
It’s puzzling — candidate Obama could be so inspiring and eloquent, while President Obama has been flat. I wonder if he hasn’t absorbed too much of Mario Cuomo’s dictum: “We campaign in poetry, and we govern in prose.”
Please, Mr. Obama! The prose needn’t be as dry as the Harvard Law Review. And we wouldn’t mind being lifted by an occasional verse of poetry.
If Mr. Obama is going to connect with voters, he must confront the economic crisis emotionally as well as intellectually. He’ll need to focus not only on optimal policies but also on pithy messages. It does no good to have a great product if no one buys it.
Or, if you're Kathleen Parker, "Narrative, schmarrative."
Democrats have talked endlessly about the importance of narrative - missing in President Obama's case. We've heard over and over about the lack of smart messaging and the president's failure to communicate. If only Obama could better express himself, all would be well.
Seriously? This is the same president whose soaring rhetoric once sent his ratings into the heavenly realm and who, after assuming office, never stopped expressing himself.
For months, he was everywhere. Talking, talking, talking. Admit it. How many times did you flip on the tube and say, "Omigod, he's talking again"? Several Teleprompters had to take early retirement from sheer exhaustion.
Just one question: how long before the lame jokes about teleprompters take an early retirement from sheer exhaustion?
Democrats, we know you are sad. And this next battle is going to involve parliamentary maneuvering and Harry Reid and worrying about the innermost thoughts of Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Everything that made the public turn on you in the first place.
But, this time, see if you can remember to point out that you are on a noble venture. Lift up your tails and trot out there and help balance the budget by killing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The American dream is depending on you — the one without any wrestling or yachts.
Dana Milbank is very annoyed that President Obama refuses to compromise with Republicans. Seriously.
David Broder also thinks that's the problem:
Somewhere along the way, Obama lost sight of his campaign pledge to enlist Republican ideas and votes. Maybe they were never there to be had, but he never truly tested it. And the deeper he became enmeshed in the Democratic politics of Capitol Hill, the less incentive there was for any Republican to contribute to his success.
Thus, a double setback to the hopes that had been aroused by his election. Instead of cooperation, the worst kind of partisanship returned. And instead of changing the way Washington operated, he seemed to ratify business as usual.
In the end, a paradox: massive public repudiation of the record of a Congress and administration that accomplished large goals, including the passage of major economic measures and a historic health-care bill; and the empowerment of a Republican opposition that had done almost nothing to offer alternatives of its own.
Oh, if only Obama would try to compromise with Republicans. Because that's the problem. They want to compromise with him, but he just hasn't tried hard enough. Now, why does that seem unlikely?
"This is not a time for compromise, and I can tell you that we will not compromise on our principles," Boehner said during an appearance on conservative Sean Hannity's radio show.
But it's all Obama's fault because he won't compromise.
George Will lists the many sources of opposition President Obama and the Democrats have faced:
George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Supreme Court, a Cincinnati congressman (John Boehner), Karl Rove, Americans for Prosperity and other "groups with harmless-sounding names" (Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" redux), "shadowy third-party groups" (they are as shadowy as steam calliopes), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, finally, the American people. They have deeply disappointed [the president] by being impervious to "facts and science and argument."
Sure, it seems like he's actually making a good point. But then he throws all of that out and says the real problem is liberals. Of course.
Betsy Reed at The Nation gives Democrats a reason to smile:
As doleful Democrats survey the wreckage left by the 2010 midterms, one sight is at least slightly cheering: Sarah Palin's Mama Grizzlies licking their wounds. Sharron Angle, Carly Fiorina and Christine O'Donnell were supposed to lead a "stampede of pink elephants" to shake up Washington. Instead, "Democrats are holding the Senate because these Republican women were just too conservative for their states," observes Debbie Walsh of the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics.
She also has some good advice for Democrats:
The point Democrats should take away from this is simple: women matter. And if they aren't moved by the poignancy of women's struggles in this harsh economy, they should at least think about how their fate as a party is intertwined with that of women as a social group. The gender gap—in which women are more likely than men to favor Democrats—did persist in this election, amounting to about thirteen points in House races, according to early exit polls. But this was a decline from previous years. The drop not only reflected the same shift toward Republicans that appeared across the board but also manifested depressed turnout among women who would have voted Democratic had they gone to the polls. Where it held strongest, the gap was a key factor in wins for Democrats, helping Harry Reid overcome Sharron Angle in Nevada and carrying Michael Bennet to victory over Ken Buck in Colorado. But overall, the Democrats need to do better in wooing and turning out women if the party is to regain its footing.
By all means, Democrats and feminists should continue to rip apart the Republican Party myth that it's been born again as the party of women. That's the easy part. Restoring women's confidence in Democrats is the tougher job.
Comments are closed on this story.