At Salon, Elias Isquith suggests that President Obama’s declining approval rating (hovering in the 40% neighborhood) may be the New Normal, because unlike past declines that were followed by increases back to his usual high-40s-to-50-percent level, this time the decline appears to be fueled, in part, by a loss of support among liberals:
What’s got me thinking this way is a raft of new polls showing not only that the president is unpopular, but that he’s becoming increasingly so in the very places, and among the very people, he could usually count on for support. A release from Field Poll earlier this month, for example, found the president to have only a 45 percent approval rating in über-blue California. Most strikingly, the pollster reported that California Dems’ support for Obama dropped 8 percent during just this summer and was down 11 percent in Los Angeles alone.
The Field Poll wasn’t an outlier, either. This past week, Marist College released a poll from that other bedrock of the Democratic Party, the state of New York. No good news there, either: Only 39 percent of registered New York voters are happy with Obama’s performance, the lowest score he’s registered in the state throughout his entire presidency. As was the case with the California poll, Marist found a big drop in the number of New York Obama supporters in the past few months. He was at a passable 45 percent as recently as July.
Obama has never really been all that liberal (see: prison, no major bank executives have been sent to, or Google “drone strike wedding”), or liberal at all (Google “Snowden surveillance leaks”).
But Isquith suggests that the reason liberals are souring on Obama (assuming that’s what’s happening; the case is compelling but a little circumstantial) now is that many liberal voters were waiting for Obama to make some kind of hard left turn, maybe after he got reelected, and yet here we are 6 years in and he’s still walking a mostly center-left, technocratic path. Oh, he’s occasionally looked as though he were about to adopt a populist, left-wing tone, if not an actual left-wing policy agenda, but every time that seems to be happening it gets nipped in the bud. And sure, a lot of that reflects the fact that he’s stuck with a Republican House that has made an institutional decision not to do anything at all until at least January 2017, but some of it really is a rhetoric problem as much as it is an accomplishment problem.
But anyway, if liberals really are souring on Obama because they see that he can’t or won’t govern to their liking, maybe that’s a good thing in the long run. Because the only thing that’s going to bring a liberal policy agenda to Washington is a long process of getting liberal politicians elected at local, state, and Congressional levels. It’s not enough to elect a Democrat every four years and assume things will work out, yet that’s exactly what liberals tend to do. I should be clear that when I say “liberals” here, I’m talking about casual liberal voters, not politically engaged folks. I realize that not all liberals think that the President of the United States is our elected king, but way too many registered voters who have a liberal but casual view of politics are. Maybe, someday, those liberal voters who keep being disappointed by their presidential picks will figure out that there’s a lot more to the system than the presidency, and that the reason there are elections every year, not once every four years, is because there are other offices out there that impact people’s daily lives.