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Can He Be Popular Without Being Populist?

So I was wrong.

I thought President Obama  was going to become wildly unpopular because he couldn’t get stuff done, that he was too idealistic, too naïve to cut the kind of deals that have to be cut to achieve your ends in a democracy. Obama The Musical

He cut the deals that needed to be cut, appeased those that needed to be appeased and passed Health Care reform. He rode roughshod over bond-holders rights to force through the survival of GM and Detroit. The US Army is no longer a fighting force in Iraq. He pushed thru the stimulus package, and extended unemployment coverage. He appointed a new Supreme Court Justice…


Less halfway through his first term, he has accomplished much of what I thought he couldn’t.  Ok so Guantanamo Bay is still open for business and a US military tribunal is trying a 15 year old boy soldier they have had in custody for the best part of a decade, but nobody is perfect.

So why is he so deeply, passionately, unpopular? Is it just because he is black? Is racism so deeply ingrained in the US psyche that non blacks just regard him as uppity, whilst blacks feel betrayed for the lack of special treatment? Or is it that he is Spock rather than Captain Kirk, a rationally logical intellectual as opposed to a passionately intuitive cowboy?

And the Muslim thing, why are so many determined to believe he is a Muslim, (not that there is anything more wrong with being a Muslim, than being a Catholic, a Jew or an Episcopalian). I guess if one were to apply Hitler’s rules as to who is a Jew then you could arrive at the conclusion that Obama is Muslim, but have that many of us really sunk that low?

Or  maybe, as Bill once said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’. Perhaps it is just impossible to be a popular president when the unemployment rate is hovering at 10%, the roof over your head, if you still own it, is worth less than when the president was elected, and nothing looks like getting better anytime soon.

It is to his credit that he has expended short term political capital on projects, like Health Care Reform, that will provide huge benefit to so many ordinary Americans in the long term. Populist politicians have a habit of have a habit of pushing through policies that provide them with short term political capital at enormous long term cost to many ordinary Americans. And the American voter falls for it, time and time again. Still and all, the judgment of posterity is not going to help the President win elections this fall.

I caught some footage of the President on the news the other day, not sure what channel, could even have been Fox, anyway the sound was off so I only had the visual, and what came across was that he doesn’t care. Which I don’t believe for a minute. I think he cares, and care passionately about the fate of ordinary Americans, and non-Americans, but he is not Captain Kirk – or Bill Clinton- and instead of wasting time and energy on emotional displays he gets on with the job of trying to fix things.

The president needs to find a way to communicate directly with people in America rather than just addressing The American People. Roosevelt had his fire side chats to bypass those who wished to spin his message (I’m guessing there were many at the time who thought that was ‘unpresidential’). Maybe President Obama needs to take a leaf out of FDR’s book find his own way of getting his message across. If he doesn’t he’s screwed.

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