President Obama received some bad news this week: A recent Gallup Poll found that the approval rating for the president has dropped below 40 percent for the first time ever. A full 54 percent of Americans disapprove of the job the president is doing. This revelation puts President Obama into George Bush territory. Bush’s approval rating dropped below 40 percent in early 2006 and never recovered after that.
I would hope and expect that President Obama can recover from his political slide, but it’s difficult to move the country forward when the economy isn’t giving you the political engine that you need. Bush’s extreme drop in popularity was also connected with the decline in the economy and pending crash in the banking industry, but the former president helped things along by simply being an incompetent leader.
President Obama is not an incompetent leader, just a weak one. Americans who went to the polls believing in the carefully-packaged marketing gimmick called “Hope and Change” are now wondering if Obama actually has the courage to pursue the kind of political change he sold to us in 2008. Rather than the bold leadership our country needed and expected, we’ve seen compromise to the point of surrender, and an administration that has rarely shown any willingness to take meaningful political risks.
You can break Obama dissidents into two “Hope and Change” categories: Those who hope that we are going to change presidents, and those who hope that Obama himself will change leadership styles. It’s hard to build bridges to nowhere, when the man across the table from you has been given a blank check from his constituents to get you out of the White House at any cost. The friendly white folks that President Obama hung out with at Harvard University have been replaced by ruthless gangster-hillbillies who will scorch the earth to get what they want.
As expected, Republicans smell blood in the water and are seizing their chance to take over the White House. But any intelligent person can see that the Republicans have been a key reason the president hasn’t been able to get anything done – they are no different from the man who murders a woman’s boyfriend and then tries to go on a date with her after the funeral.
Republicans have also shown that their racist disdain for President Obama is even stronger than their love for America. By threatening to drive the nation off an economic cliff during recent debt negotiations, Republicans have made it clear that they will destroy heaven and earth to get President Obama out of the White House. None of this reflects the patriotism needed to make our country a better place, and it also represents a step backward in our quest for true racial equality.
The job for President Obama is going to become even more difficult, since getting out of recessions costs money. The original stimulus package in early 2008 was not only too small, it was targeted toward the very same Wall Street bankers who caused the crisis in the first place. As a result, Wall Street executives were the first to recover economically, and many of these bankers are back to getting their multimillion dollar bonuses. The Obama Administration can only blame themselves for much of this, because too many members of Obama’s economic team came right out of Wall Street themselves.
I’m sure there are top secret reasons that the Obama Administration appears to maintain more loyalty to corporate America than to the rest of us. But the president’s political aspirations may go down bloody and burning because of his willingness to play the political game instead of trying to change it. Using the title of one of the president’s books, I have the audacity to hope that President Obama has learned some political lessons and will allow his leadership to evolve over time. I truly wonder, however, if he himself has the audacity to believe he can do it.
Even more sinister is whether or not Hillary Clinton is lurking in the background, waiting to pounce on an opportunity to steal the Democratic nomination away from President Obama. I can hear the quiet little “I told you so,” from the woman whose face possesses the seasoned wrinkles of someone with more than her share of Washington battle scars. At this point, the temptation to replace President Obama with a Republican is less appealing (to most) than the idea of replacing him with a more ferocious Democrat. Personally, I hate the idea of concluding that the Black man wasn’t the best fit for the job, so a better version of Obama would be preferable to the same old Hillary Clinton.
Mr. President: You can’t spend your life trying to make your enemies comfortable. True leadership requires sacrifice and courage, almost none of which you’ve shown, especially on the issue of racial inequality. America needs a strong Commander-in-Chief during difficult times.
There’s a famous statement by Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata who said, “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” The only thing worse than living on your knees is dying on them; but this may be exactly what happens to the seemingly weak Obama presidency. By tap dancing on territory where he should have been stomping, President Obama may be slowly digging his own political grave.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.
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