We want our hope and change and our popcorn, and we want it now
In another time, in another context, another president spoke often of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” The George W. Bush phrase was about setting high goals — in education and other endeavors — for minorities.
Now, in another context and with another president, we are seeing the harsh reality of high expectations; perhaps unrealistic, unreachable expectations that seem to have Barack Obama on a crash course with midterm congressional losses that will have us all wondering what happened.
First, some history. What seems about to happen is what often happens. First-term presidents with sub-50 percent approval ratings two years into their terms suffer substantial loss of seats in the U.S. House.
Happened to Truman, happened to Johnson, happened to Carter, happened to Reagan, happened to Clinton. Gallup now has Obama at a 47 percent approval rating.
“I think there’s no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control (of the U.S. House.) There’s no doubt about that,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
How many seats will the Dems lose? Who knows. In 2006, Bush’s approval rating was at 38 percent halfway through his second term and his GOP lost 30 seats and House control. In 1994, Clinton was at 46 percent when the GOP picked up 53 House seats to wrest control.
Concerns that the Democrats will lose seats in the U.S. House in the midterm elections could be directly related to expectations that were set so high in November 2008, when Barack Obama parlayed hope and change into victory.
This year’s November math could be directly related to the expectations bar that was set so high in November 2008 when Obama parlayed hope and change into victory.
“Is the Obama administration falling short, or are expectations simply too high?” NBC’s David Gregory asked in setting up Sunday’s “Meet the Press.”
“That’s a good question,” Gibbs said later in the show.
And then Gibbs talked about Afghanistan (“We knew it was going to take some time.”) And then he talked about financial recovery (which, along with Afghanistan, “may not perfectly line up with the 2010 elections.”)
“We understand that people are frustrated. Everybody’s frustrated,” Gibbs said.
It’s frustration fueled by, I believe, unrealistic expectations about how quickly we can make significant progress in addressing the daunting, long-standing issues of our times (not to mention the Gulf oil spill).
It’s frustration I felt was inevitable in 2008 as I went around the country and watched Obama in action at campaign rallies. So much passion and energy, from the candidate and from the faithful. So much hope for so much change so quickly. So much expectation — especially among those politically involved for the first time — destined to lead to disappointment.
Our major problems defy two-year solutions. But we are an immediate gratification society. We tremor at the thought of sitting in front of a TV without clutching a remote control (at least we men do). We’re the only people in the world who stand in front of the microwave and yell “Hurry, hurry.”
Maybe that’s why congressional midterm elections often offer rebuke for the president we elected two years earlier.
“It was a thumpin’,” Bush said in a morningafter news conference in November 2006.
Is Obama about to take a thumpin’? We’ll see. For it to happen, it seems that some folks who voted Democratic in 2008 will have to vote GOP in 2010.
Along those lines, I’d like to hear from Obama supporters, circa 2008, who now have anything resembling buyers’ remorse. Is this not turning out how you thought it would? Did you have some notion that troop withdrawals would happen more quickly than they are? Did you expect more in the way of financial recovery by now?
Exactly what about President Obama has been different than what you saw in candidate Obama?
I’m fishing for input from Obama backers from 2008. Let’s not turn this into a forum for those of you who remain certain he was not born on our planet.