Are liberal voters ever going to figure out how government works?

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.


3 thoughts on “Are liberal voters ever going to figure out how government works?

  1. ” 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. ”

    You have that exactly right, and frustration over this issue has me on the verge of driving nails into my eyeballs so that I don’t have to deal with The Stupid anymore.

    Part of my tale of woe is that I have been doing this lefty blogging thing since 1996, before we even had a word for it, so I have been through this cycle so many times I can’t believe we are doing it to ourselves AGAIN.

    After the hideous years of the Bush administration, a good many people got excited and signed up with Obama in the expectation of easy victories. We had some of those, but we also had defeats and disappointments. So after what some consider to be many years of patient waiting, these same people are adopting an attitude of “screw you! I won’t vote Democrat – not even for dog catcher – until you hand me some victories, gratis.”

    Which is exactly the wrong thing to do. The only path to long term victory is to build a partisan base from the ground up, explicitly forgoing the temptation to decapitate the present leadership under the delusion that replacing the traitors with our gang will lead quickly and painlessly to the liberal utopia. The christers made this happen, after thirty years of toiling patiently in the Republican vineyards; the lefty greedheads lust after their influence but lack the gravitas to examine their methods and see what worked.

    Some of the worst examples can be found over at the Daily Kos, where the pretend radicals would have you believe that an army of disaffected voters is out there waiting for a great leader to utter to magic words that will awaken the sleeping giant and send him lumbering to the polls. What might constitute that spell? They squabble interminably amongst themselves, but it appears to involve marijuana legalization and a steeply progressive income tax – admirable suggestions, to be sure, but hardly an updating of the Communist Manifesto.

    1. If you had a real liberal movement akin to the conservative movement that eventually put Reagan in office (but only after it had done the unglamorous work at the local and state levels), you could maybe offer people the chance to vote their conscience for lower offices while still voting lesser of two evils at the national level. Then eventually they’d be able to vote their conscience at the national level as the overall politics began to shift. But you can’t even get people to show up for Congressional midterms, which is just crazy to me.

      1. Of course, you put it more succinctly than I ever could: first the conservatives built the movement, then they elected a president who could sign all the bills they pushed through Congress. Team Liberal seems determined to demand the president first, who can magic the legislation into existence through sheer force of will.

        One factor of primary importance that seems to have been forgotten is that Reagan got what he wanted despite Democratic control of Congress. The Republican legislators were united, displaying iron discipline, and capable of splitting off critical masses of disaffected Democrats to vote on specific issues. Somehow the House and Senate leadership failed to use their considerable gatekeeping powers to block hostile legislation, but there you have it. Today’s Republicans suffer from no such shyness, and their toadies back in the local papers are more than happy to scream about that nasty Harry Reid destroying Senatorial comity with his dictatorial methods – and plenty of people are eager to believe it.

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