"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Sunday, November 7, 2010

When the Tide Turned for Obama

Here is a chart from Rasmussen Reports of his "presidential approval index," the difference between those polled who "strongly approve" of Obama and those who "strongly disapprove":

Reading this chart, it sure seems as if Obama's honeymoon was over after a few months, but the index had stabilized in the early summer of 2009.  Then, beginning in July 2009 or so, it went abruptly negative and has never returned to positive territory.   What happened?   Some say it was Obama's move toward health care reform, and the angry town hall meetings that occurred late that summer.   Some say it was Rick Santelli's "tea party" outburst on CNBC earlier in the year.  

I think I can pinpoint it exactly.   Here is what Obama said about a local police matter involving a Harvard professor on July 22, 2009:

Now, I don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts what role race played in that, but I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. And that's just a fact.   As you know, Lynn, when I was in the state legislature in Illinois we worked on a racial profiling bill because there was indisputable evidence that blacks and hispanics were being stopped disproportionately. And that is a sign, an example of how, you know, race remains a factor in this society.
I think that's when the tide turned for Obama -- when, based on "not having been there and not seeing all the facts," Obama chose to accuse a Cambridge policeman responding to a call at the home of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates of racism.   White lower middle-class Americans and white working-class Americans -- constituencies the Democratic Party has always needed -- saw Obama side, not with a black man, but with a very wealthy, very privileged member of the elite who just happened to be black.   Obama sided with the professor, Gates, who makes a million a year (if you add in his publishing royalties and speaking fees), against the cop who probably makes $60k.   Obama, without "seeing all the facts," jumped to a conclusion that a white cop must be racist.

What did all the other white cops (and white firefighters and white factory workers and white small business owners and white salesmen and white accountants) think about the Gates incident?  I think the polls show what they thought.  A switch flipped, and for much of white working America Obama went from being a President to being just another diversity consultant, driving up to their offices in a late-model foreign luxury car, hectoring them for an afternoon in exchange for a fee representing hundreds of dollars an hour, then driving off, leaving them to do the hard jobs that pay much less.

People don't mind that their Presidents are superior to them; deep down we probably want our Presidents to be superior in some way.   But Presidents can never never never never never act like they think they are superior to us.   It's political poison.  

So if you are wondering when the tide turned for Obama, this is when:

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