Democrats’ Obama problem (Hint: It’s not the one you think)

President Obama works the crowd after a speech in Chicago, Nov. 25. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Abrogast)

President Obama works the crowd after a speech in Chicago, Nov. 25. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Abrogast)

President Obama works the crowd after a speech in Chicago, Nov. 25. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Abrogast)

On Monday, I wrote about Democrats’ middle-class problem. Consider this post a follow-up to that one (which, if you haven’t read it, is here).

Democrats’ strange new awareness of their failure to address the concerns of middle-income workers strikes me as one of two things. It could simply be your run-of-the-mill political pandering. Or it could be an actual epiphany. If it’s the latter, then the next thing Democratic leaders need to understand is that their problems aren’t going to end just because Barack Obama is leaving the White House.

True, Obama is as polarizing a figure as we’ve seen in U.S. politics in some time. And for six years, many folks on the left have convinced themselves that conservatives, Republicans and many independents are irrationally opposed to Obama’s policies, and that racism must be the largest reason. It couldn’t be ideology — after all, to use one of their examples, the idea for the individual mandate came from the Heritage Foundation and was implemented in Massachusetts by Gov. Mitt Romney! (If you still believe it’s as simple as that, you need to read Avik Roy’s account of the history of the mandate, its supporters and its objectors.) Even if I have overstated the degree to which our friends on the left ascribe Obama-opposition to race, there seems to be a prevailing belief that the disdain for Obama’s policies reflects animus toward Obama personally — and that it will largely melt away as soon as he leaves office.

I think the opposite is closer to the truth.

That is, I think support for Obama, and hence his policies such as Obamacare, may be personal in nature, and that he personally is all that’s keeping his coalition stitched together. He is, to borrow from Reggie Jackson, the straw that stirs the Democrats’ drink.

I don’t necessarily attribute this to people supporting Obama because he is black. That may be true at the margins among people who, in presidential elections prior to 2008, were eligible to vote but didn’t do so. But by and large, black voters supported Democrats for decades before Obama came on the scene. History suggests that, absent some strong appeal to them from a Republican candidate, the vast majority of black voters would have sided with the Democratic candidate in 2008 no matter who it was. So I think the attachment to Obama among his voters is personal, but not necessarily based on race.

OK, you may be saying at this point, but why would that point to a personal affinity for Obama keeping public opinion of his policies from taking a total nose dive? Because that’s true of most presidents.

Voters are loath to disown a president they have backed, particularly if they backed him more than once. Consider that, even as banks were failing and equity markets were plunging in October 2008, fully one-quarter of those surveyed by Gallup continued to approve of George W. Bush’s job performance. If that doesn’t sound too high, know that it was nonetheless higher than Congress’ approval rating at the time (18 percent), which had been below 25 percent for a year at that point — and that Congress was at that time controlled by Democrats, the party that surged in the next month’s election.

It wasn’t until Bush was off the ballot that the bottom truly fell out from under the GOP.

Democrats who believe they’re primed for an odds-on win in 2016 just because the electorate will be larger, or stands to be younger and less white, are misreading the message of the past two midterm elections. While the president’s party tends to lose seats in midterm elections, and voter turnout is always lower in those years, the drop-off isn’t always as stark as it has been under Obama — twice. Obama has the worst and eighth-worst showings among presidents in the 16 midterm elections since 1952*. Combined, his net loss of 86 seats in midterm elections is worse than any president during that time; the next worst was Eisenhower with a net loss of 66.

In short, counting on the Obama coalition to show up didn’t work in 2010 or 2014 when his name wasn’t on the ballot but, as he memorably (and perhaps unwisely) put it this year, his policies were. The notion that his coalition will show up in 2016 for someone other than him is not unfathomable, but nor is it anywhere close to certain.

All of which points, again, to Democrats’ need to move in a different direction over the next two years. As I said in the previous piece, I may well disagree with the direction they take. But they would be foolish to stay the course.

* – The graph at the link doesn’t include information for 1954 or 1966, which I drew from other sources.

Reader Comments 0

68 comments
RantNRave
RantNRave

"No flagellating, strong  talking femme de failure or golf playing dictatorial male!  We need a candidate of value after a long tenure without such as that."


DUSTY2


SUCH FLOWERY WORDS.........


NOT A GOLF PLAYING DICTATORIAL MALE?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCm9788Tb5g




RantNRave
RantNRave

"We need a president with brains, guts and integrity and he has all of them. "


DUSTY2


GUTS ??


National Guard records SHOW A SUDDEN DROP-OFF IN GEORGE BUSH'S MILITARY ACTIVITY. Though trained as a pilot AT CONSIDERABLE GOVERNMENT EXPENSE, BUSH stopped flying in April 1972 and never flew for the Guard again.


July 6, 1972, GEORGE BUSH DID NOT TAKE HIS REQUIRED ANNUAL MEDICAL EXAM at his Texas unit. As a consequence, he was SUSPENDED from flying military jets.

RantNRave
RantNRave

"We need a president with brains, guts and integrity and he has all of them. "


DUSTY2


INTEGRITY ??


PRESIDENT BUSH HAS ADMITTED HAVING A DRINKING PROBLEM,  had been charged with DUI while visiting his parents in Maine and also supposedly passed out drunk watching a ball game.


There are reports of Bush running over trash cans and stealing christmas wreaths after knocking back a few too many beers. He is also accused of quiting flying because the National Guard was IMPLEMENTING RANDOM DRUG TESTING. .


President Bush has done many things to try to keep this from the public.


RantNRave
RantNRave

"of course the GOP governor fired him for incompetence BUT NOT OBAMA!!! "


BLAH BLAH BLAH


THE GOVERNOR GOT BAMBOOZLED BY GRUBER SO HE HAD TO FIRE HIM...............


SO YOU CONS AIN'T THAT SMART EITHER.


heeheeheeheeheeheeheeheehee

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

New Jersey is the place to go if you enjoy being taxed. Number 1 in the nation. And the governor there is supposedly a Republican. How many Republicans you ever met that assail their fellow citizens with the tax code? Almost none, right? Let's call this our first clue.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

How many of you think that a clinton, bush or a christie would be more of the same old? And that's exactly what we don't want?

Dusty2
Dusty2

The Obama problem is easy to diagnose  He is doing what Obama wants to do and not what the people want him to do.  That's a problem for all Americans no matter their political party. 


But Kyle, I am sorry that you had to drag Bush into this brouhaha created by Obama.(Always your weakness!)   Neither one created the recession but Obama was supposed to offset it.  That was his first failure.  Many others follow.


The only hope in this mess is to get Jeb Bush in the White House.  We need a president with brains, guts and integrity and he has all of them.  Right now I see no other such figure on the horizon. 


No flagellating, strong  talking femme de failure or golf playing dictatorial male!  We need a candidate of value after a long tenure without such as that.


stogiefogey
stogiefogey

The GOP made it relatively easy for Obama the last two presidential election cycles by fronting uncharismatic, untelegenic hence unelectable candidates, especially 2008. In 2012 while charmer BHO was peddling "hope and change" to the adoring masses the other side was telling them that 47% of them were slackers.

RantNRave
RantNRave

"Well, duh!!!   He's the first black guy in the White House.  I guess we were naive - and, frankly, downright stupid and myopic - to expect otherwise."


TIBBY


TRANSLATION


MOST WHITE PEOPLE THINK BLACKS ARE INTELLECTUALLY INFERIOR


WHICH IS DOWNRIGHT STUPID..........................


I WOULD LOVE TO MEET SOME OF YOU ON THIS BLOG BECAUSE


YA'LL AIN'T THE SHARPEST KNIVES IN THE DRAWER.

RantNRave
RantNRave

"obama grubered the voters in 2008."


WHINEY


GRUBER DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE............................


GRUBER GRUBERED THE REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR IN NORTH CAROLINA 


AND THEY FIRED GRUBER


IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

obama grubered the voters in 2008. He was supposed to unite us, lower the sea levels and end all the strife in the world. What we got instead was a belligerent slacker that enjoyed golfing and inflaming the electorate. This explains the 86 seats lost since then, how he got reelected no one will ever know. Cheating? romney?


Which leads us to hillary, someone who has always been a belligerent slacker that enjoys conniving and inflaming the electorate. 


You think we can nominate another squish and not give all of our gains right back?

MarkVV
MarkVV

The Republicans, and their supporters on the blog, keep clinging to the false conviction that Obamacare is an anchor on the Democrats’ necks. Apparently, as Kyle has shown recently, even some Democrats have fallen victims to this false belief. They do not realize that time is their enemy. As more and more people realize the advantages of the new system, what they will ask for will be fine tuning of it, not cancellation, not attacks, but support.

Naturally, we do not hear from Kyle about news like the following (AJC, 12/2/2014):

“A surge of competition from   health insurers has helped drive down the cost of many Obamacare plans for 2015 in nearly two-thirds of Georgia counties, new data shows.

Nationwide, monthly premiums dropped in many places where insurers new to the Health Insurance Marketplace are offering the least expensive plans, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis released Monday.”

“Premiums went up in metro Atlanta counties but overall were down across the state.”

“The federal marketplace kicked off its second open enrollment last month with nearly half a million Americans selecting health plans throughHealthCare.gov  in the first week.”

Tiberius-Constitutionus
Tiberius-Constitutionus

"Obama is as polarizing a figure as we’ve seen in U.S. politics in some time."


Well, duh!!!   He's the first black guy in the White House.  I guess we were naive - and, frankly, downright stupid and myopic - to expect otherwise.

tyger
tyger

Were the Democrats that lost mid-terms true Democrats?


Would a true Democrat turn their back to the Democratic President?

I think not...their foolhardy strategy was their own demise...


1. They lacked the star power of Barack Obama...

2. Thus, they could not excite their base...

3. Voter turnout is conditional...they miscalculated...

4. Mid-term candidates were Republicans in Democratic cloth...

5. Their distance from the President, distanced them from base...

6. Their math was wrong, the "swing" voter is tiny, irrelevant...

7. Their strength was the base: the outcasts, the young, the liberal...

8. They lost their base, the "swingers" swung, platform uninspiring...

9. They offered nothing unique, appealing, progressive, no ideas...

10. And they were ultimately routed...

Juanx
Juanx

Kyle...You missed two opportunities to gauge where the GOP won and lost. 2010 was a Jobs campaign by the GOP that never materialized. Once again, the GOP ran on President Obama's policies that are hated by the Tea Party base. To add to that there was Ebola and Isis scare tactics. And, the distraction of Ferguson and dark money to GOP office seekers. These two campaigns were little more than "Bumper Sticker" messages to the GOP base.


People pay more attention when there is a national election for President. Progressive Democrats will prevail in 2016 as the GOP will be held accountable up to and until Nov 2, 2016.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Very good, Kyle.  And I fail to remember the guy's name, but whoever subbed for you in this past Sunday's AJC hardcopy was very good also and hit the nail on the head.

The Democrats are losing the white middle class.  They however believe the combination of the black block vote with the rising Hispanic vote will save their behind when, in fact, the combination of blacks and Hispanics is only about half of the white middle class.

There is slang for their type thinking - alligator mouth and canary behind (cleaned up to pass the moderator). 

In sane times a president in Obama's position would have stepped back, realized the message of the midterm and adjusted.  Instead, not only has Obama not done so, his supporters have not done so, they are waiving the read flag at the bull.

There are those who think the USA must have two political parties.  I agree.

Republicans, and Libertarians.

We would not miss the Libs.


RantNRave
RantNRave

"Obamacare is the gift that keeps on giving. "


RAFEHOLLISTER


AND "YOUR" TEA PARTY IS THE GOP'S GIFT THAT WILL KEEP ON GIVING...........


AND GIVING AND GIVING AND GIVING

RantNRave
RantNRave

"Obamacare is the gift that keeps on giving. "


RAFEHOLLISTER


WHAT GIFT HAS THE GOP GIVEN TO AMERICANS??


OH WAIT..........................................................THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN !! 

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

The vetoes instead of negotiation and compromise on budget, energy independence, immigration, tax reform, etc.are going to pile up and show the electorate how ideologically dogmatic Obama is in ignoring the will of the elected Congress.  It is not likely the Democratic nominee for president in 2016 will repudiate the gross partisanship.  At some point this decade, there will probably be some statesmanship and bi-partisan legislation - but almost certainly not until the last couple of years.


Republicans would be wise to compromise on the less important touchstone Democratic Party populist desires like the minimum wage, Buffet rule tax rates, and get away from the social issues of abortion and homosexuality in order to win on some of the bigger issues.  Not sure the conservatives will be able to swallow such.

DownInAlbany
DownInAlbany

And, then, you have an ex-cabinet member, basically, calling US citizens, "dumb." 

"One of the things that we have learned with the passage of the law [Obamacare], and certainly with open enrollment in 2014--and I think this will be true again in 2015--is that a lot of Americans have no idea what insurance is about, and have no idea, even if they have coverage, what it means, you know, what a deductible is, what a copay is, how to choose a network. Those are complicated terms," Sebelius told USA Today's Susan Page. 

Sebelius added that Americans' inability to understand health insurance was a "stunning revelation."

"I think the financial literacy of a lot of people, particularly people who did not have insurance coverage, or whose employers choose their coverage and kind of present it to them, is very low," said Sebelius. "That has been a stunning revelation."

n8diggidy
n8diggidy

The Democrats care about oligarchs, cronies and dependents, not the working class. -  JOHN HINDERAKER


That about sums it up.  The markets needed certainty after the financial collapse.  Instead they got comprehensive Health Care with changing deadlines over six years or so.  The middle and lower class need jobs.  Instead they got green shoots, not so shovel ready jobs and most recently received additional competition from up to 5 million previously illegal aliens.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Obamacare is the gift that keeps on giving.  As it gets implemented, more and more come to realize what an unmitigated disaster it is, for all those who do not get subsidies/and had insurance previously.  It created new winners and losers, the winners are the folks, who traditionally vote Dem anyway, the losers the middle class and more economically well off.  Many of the Obamacare losers are going to carry their torch for decades and those that voted for it are going to continue to lose elections in competitive districts.  The Congressional purge is almost complete, but as those who voted for seek the Presidency, they will be reminded of their vote.  When Tom Harkin and Chuck Schumer are regretting their vote, you know they see the damage they have done to the Dem party.


Also, it is very rare that one party holds the WH more than 8 years at a time.  People are tired of Obama and his enablers, so to run as a Dem, the candidates are going to have to draw large distinctions with his policies.  That is going to be hard to do, if you supported Obamacare, the flawed foreign policy, closing Club Gitmo, and the Amnesty.  The next candidate will have to swing left or right of Obama to have a chance.

straker
straker

Don't worry, Kyle.


The newly Republican controlled Congress will undo even more of Obama's programs.


As for the Democrats, they will sit back and patiently watch The Tea Party tear things apart and ruin any Republican chances in 2016.

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

@IReportYouWhine  Me?  No Clinton especially Hillary.  Jeb seems to be a square shooter but the Bush name is a liability.  Christie??  Afraid he'd get all uppity and push the button.


The GOP primary pushes the party too far to the right and we lose quality nominees. 


Dems??? bunch of phonies that will say and do anything to get their way.

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

@MarkVV keep clinging to the false conviction that Obamacare is an anchor on the Democrats’ necks

Dems have been trying to pass that crap since 1936...  So now its here and THE people hate it..  

GOP will own the WH in 2016 thru 2032 becasue of the lies...

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@tyger Everyone of the ones defeated voted with Obama more than 90% of the time, so it is quite desperate to now claim they were Reps in Dem cloth.  Now, that is funny, just more Gruberish.

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

@Juanx that jobs bill you mentioned is sitting on Harry "the idiot" Reid's desk..  Dems didn't want to vote on it becasue they know they would lose the 2012 election. Oh but what about Obama's job bill???  Part time employment is not a jobs bill..

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

@RantNRave and the liberals keep lying & lying & lying. Funny how those lies are taking money from my wallet...  R&R is just scared that the Tea Party will take away his sugar daddy...  Work is good, give it a try

blah blah blah
blah blah blah

@RantNRave yep, the shutdown was best thing that happen to this country in the last SIX years.  Thank you GOP

GMFA
GMFA

@The_Centrist Those veto's were a result of Republicans adding items to the bills to undercut Obama. But they did vote 44 times to repeal Obamacare and collectively they are now know as the "do nothing congress." You know they never intended to compromise with Obama and even said so.  

GMFA
GMFA

@n8diggidy The markets are doing just fine. But the shutdowns have cost Americans billions of dollars. That is uncertainty at its worst. That is what Republicans gave the most of. Oh wait, they did give new more permissive gun laws.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@RafeHollister Might have been raining ...Who knows ?


Remember when you thought the Q1 numbers were due to Obamacare ( when everyone knew dang well it was the weather )



HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@RafeHollister Obamacare is the gift that keeps on giving.


In reality that just isn't so.....Obamacare IS working. You don't really hear all that much about repeal anymore now do you ?


I don't get any subsidies...My rates went up less last year than the previous 6. I liked my plan and doctor and kept both.


And that is the reality of what is happening out there. Not these lies of exploding rates ( which are conveniently always just around the corner ) or Death Panels.


People are starting to figure that out and when you ask people about the specifics of Obamacare, for instance Pre existing Conditions, they overwhelmingly support it.


Republicans are going to blow it big time in 2016 if they continue with this repeal nonsense and don't get serious about things like immigration ( on which the President has already won ) 



blah blah blah
blah blah blah

@straker let them sit back and watch as the 2016 Presidential election goes GOP which will they hold until 2032 thanks to Obama and the liberals...  It will take that long to straighten out this mess.

You'll have to wait until it's passed before we know whats in it...  ha ha ha ha please stop it, ha ha ha

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@HeadleyLamar @RafeHollister Gruberish spin, get out of your intown bubble and meet some real people who can't find a doctor or can't afford to go to one because of the insane deductibles and co-pays.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@blah blah blah @straker It will take that long to straighten out this mess.


Its hilarious to hear that. Considering the economy Obama inherited.


The next President will have a cakewalk by comparison.