In answer to Joseph’s question, I am a little surprised by how far the President’s approval numbers have fallen and how much pushback he is getting on his agenda. I thought that President Obama would remain personally popular even if the public started expressing greater disapproval of his actions and the state of the economy, and I still maintain that the Republicans would be wiser to focus their attention in the mid-terms on Nancy Pelosi and tie vulnerable Congressional Democrats to her rather than the President. But we’ve seen the first real chinks in his armor began to manifest themselves, and one word in one late-night press conference may have done more damage to his credibility than anything else he has done.
That being said, it’s hardly time to begin celebrating. Bill Clinton rebounded after the 1994 election debacle, and our current president is still savvy enough to take advantage of even the slightest opening.
More importantly, even if the all of the pieces of the President’s disastrous agenda are not put into place, what’s done is already sufficient to justify conservative gloominess. (And as an aside, since when is pessimism considered a negative trait for conservatives?) Furthermore, even if Obama doesn’t get universal health care and cap-and-trade passed, he can and almost certainly will do enough around the edges to put our country on even worse footing. There can be another Supreme Court retirement, and it might not be another case of a liberal replacing a liberal. Is a weakened Obama really going to have his Supreme Court picks blocked? Bush managed to get two in post-Katrina, so I think not.
And even a grossly unpopular president is still the head of the Executive Branch, and considering the bureaucracy he’s structured, that in and of itself is perilous. For example, take a look at cap-and-trade. Sure the Senate might defeat the bill, but EPA has been given enough authority that it can implement some kind of regulatory structure that might be even worse than what Congress is considering right now. So Barack Obama doesn’t even need the backing of Congress to achieve much of what he desires.
Finally, the opposition is still fairly pathetic. I believe that the grassroots has done more than an admirable job in raising public consciousness, but they’re hardly getting any help from inside the Beltway. We have certain Republican Senators focusing their ire instead on those evil Southerners in the party. We also have a National Republican Senatorial Committee backing moderate candidates at the expense of more conservative and frankly more promising candidates. And the problems aren’t just relegated to the national party, as “outsider” candidates are pushed to the back in favor of insiders. Unlike in 1994, there seems to be a lack of coherent organized movement on the Hill.
So yeah, there is probably a bit more call for optimism than I would have thought possible at this point in time. But we have a long, long way to go.