Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why both the Left and Right are Wrong about Obama--and in the same Way

Opinion polls for President Obama are down--down enough to make his re-election seem unlikely.

But when the polls just ask whether people are satisfied with his actions, they conflate people who are dissatisfied because he's a Socialist with people who are dissatisfied because he's a Corporatist.

That is, the Left in general are unhappy because he isn't opposing the Republican Party enough,
while the Right is unhappy because he isn't surrendering to the Republican Party totally.

Lumping those two kind of unhappiness together leads to a severe misunderstanding of what the polls point towards in the next election, and to what the electorate is thinking now.

And the unhappiness with President Obama from both Left and Right stems--at least in part--from the unconscious belief that President = Ruler.

And though he has the bully pulpit to be sure, but in terms of actual power he's more like the chief administrator of the country. He can't pass legislation. He can't even initiate legislation. He can't overrule judges. And in our particular country, even if all congressional Democrats always do everything he asks of them, Senate rules in particular make it possible for a Republican minority there to make the Federal government incapable of sending any legislation to President Obama's desk, and incapable of confirming any presidential appointees, producing a hogtied government that lives down to Republican claims that government can't do anything.

An American president only wields the kind of power people think he had when his party isn't just in a majority in both houses, but which has 61 votes in the Senate that can always be relied on (difficult to maintain with senators in battleground states whose seats are vulnerable), and which has a Supreme Court majority that can generally be relied on. Bush II pretty much had that for most of his disastrous reign. Obama never did, and even during the four months he had a nominally filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, he was being forced to deal with the economic crisis the Republicans handed him (and then tried to blame him for), and with the fact that they proved willing to cripple the country through routine obstructionism for political gain.

It was like seeing two boxers fighting but each under different rules, one willing to hit below the belt and bite and kick, the other not.

These are all process observations which you can evaluate regardless of the actual policies involved.

The bottom line is that ideologues don't think about policy, they think about personality. Right wing ideologues call Obama a Socialist, which is beyond ridiculous, but they don't really mean they think he really wants a Soviet States of America. They clearly don't understand what the word means, or that every single person in America who does say he's a Socialist also says Obama is not remotely one of them. Mainly they use the word because they associate it with opprobrium, making it more like a junior high school schoolyard taunt than a serious political statement.

And left wing ideologues call him a Corporatist because, just like their right wing brothers in thought, they see things in black & white. So for them centrists like Obama are seen either as one thing or another, or as confused.

They're shades of gray-blind.


Anonymous said...

@"And though he has the bully pulpit to be sure, but in terms of actual power he's more like the chief administrator of the country."

Dear Ehkzu,

Greetings from a different sector of the matrix.

The president's office as envisioned by the founders would indeed restrict his power as chief administrator. Yet I think under even the lightest of examinations you will find it to be more Imperial than administrative. A few examples follow.

1. Obama has commited acts of war in Libya without any authority, even under the war constitutionally suspect powers act, he has not gotten approval by a feckless congress and cites NATO as giving him the authority. Administrative or Imperial?

2. The presidents going back several administrations use Presidential directives to institute what is more like law sometimes even circumvent it. Examples

A. Obama attempting to implement Quasi amnesty to illegals. Ref 1. below.than administration.

B. Obama's attempt to violate gun rights in border states with an ATF directive outside of law and even instigating Mexican gun smuggling with "Operation Fast and Furious". A program that While the feds were selling guns to Mexican drug gangs, Obama was simultaneously blaming drug violence on the flow of guns from border states to Mexico. Ref 2. below

C. Obama care provisions in the law allow an Imperial fiat like waiver to some and not others. McDonalds and 29 others had a waiver in 2010 but how about Joe Shmoe's drive-in. Ref 3.

I could go on ad-nauseum about the imperial presidency, even as far back as Roosevelt with his gold confiscation during the depression.

Constituional behavior should be restored to stop these imperial presidents by beginning with the replacement of a Feckless congress.




JimF said...

Good points.

But I'd argue Bush43 got far more done than Obama44 has by being a more forceful leader. (He may have led us the wrong way, but he led.)

Bush43 got his ludicrous tax cuts by avoiding the 61-vote limit through "reconciliation". Obama refused to use "reconciliation" because he wanted bi-partisan support, when it was clear that would never happen.

There are times when people need to fight. FDR fought. Teddy Roosevelt fought. Obama equivocates, delays and delegates.

Look at the Simpson-Bowles report Obama44 so proudly quotes -- a right-wing Republican plan created when Obama appointed a right-wing Wall Street board director and an even-more-right wing GOP eccentric that referred to people on Social Security "sucking on teats".

Surprise! They compromised between the right and far-right to come up with a right-wing plan that includes tax cuts for Wall Street and cuts to Social Security!

And Obama embraces and quotes that report that wasn't voted out of committee because all the Democrats opposed it.

Ehkzu said...

I'd agree for sure if we had a parliamentary system. In such systems the guy in the equivalent of the Oval Office really does have the power many here assume the American president does--and hasn't.

It's emotionally hugely tempting to want President Obama to mount a vigorous defense and not seem to be waffling so much, and many liberal pundits certainly agree with you.

I honestly don't know. His opposition is so fanatical--and so well-financed--and so sophisticated propagandistically--that head-on opposition might not succeed.

He may be capable of strong opposition and be playing a long game, hoping to lure the Publicans into such outrageous behavior that the American people turn against them.

But I agree that if he does hope this it may be a forlorn hope. Rep. Weiner's NY seat just went to a Republican in a strongly Democratic district. Weiner's repellent behavior shouldn't have justified this, but maybe it did. People mainly use their minds to rationalize their emotions.

As I've said before, it's irrational to treat people as if they're rational.

I know lots of Publicans, as it happens, and as a group they treat Obama as illegitimate, though they don't say so in so many words. It's a vibe. But it's powerful. They assume that everything he does, he does for venal, unpatriotic reasons. It's pretty scary to see tribalism I'd associate more with, say, rural Rwandans than educated Americans.