This summer has cemented it: Barack Obama is a lame duck. His administration is a failure. Democrats know it. And they only have months to act.
Their president has lost the support of Wall Street donors. He has driven high-powered Democrats to go public with humiliating criticism. One in four Democrats have told CNN they want a different nominee.
What’s the problem? In a hugely influential New York Times editorial, psychologist Drew Westen lamented that Obama’s problem is himself. “Like most Americans,” he wrote, “at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue.”
There is still time for Democrats to fix this — but only if they force their leader not to seek a second term. As a president, Barack Obama is doomed. He is doomed now, doomed on Election Day and doomed even if he wins, until the day he leaves the White House.
Where to begin? For starters, Obama has no true constituency. Stephen Moore, writing in The Wall Street Journal, claimed last week that “the increasingly frustrated left” concedes the president has “a virtual lock on the crucial black vote.” But top black leaders feel ignored at best and betrayed at worst — and they’ve said so at their own town hall series.
No one wants to admit that the president’s white and African heritage — non-African-American, that is — matters. It mattered when he parlayed it as a candidate into a successful-feeling act of racial transcendence and healing. It matters now as we strain to understand his inability to connect at a gut political level with black America.
Obama is not really a product of the black experience. He is not really a product of the white experience. An optimist would say he is a product of the American experience, but the emotionally neutral judgment is that — politically, at a minimum — he is a man from nowhere.
And as often happens with presidents at momentous times, his character has colored his country. Increasingly, America seems like it is going nowhere. Increasingly, America seems like nowhere. Much of this is a consequence of the brittleness, drift and rot of our most powerful institutions. But the significant part that matters to Obama is the result of Obama himself — his attitude, his words and the style and substance of his response as a president to this protracted crisis.
Democrats are now nervously, angrily asking themselves what Obama can do to seize anew the imagination of his country before his fate is sealed some point between now and Election Day. E.J. Dionne begs for something “imaginative.” Eugene Robinson cries that the president’s “promised jobs plan needs to be unrealistic and unreasonable, at the very least. If he can crank it all the way up to unimaginable, that would be even better.”
Alas, it is unimaginable that this, or anything like it, will ever happen — before the election or afterward, and whether or not Obama wins.