We want our hope and change and our pop­corn, and we want it now

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION - KEN HER­MAN kher­man@states­man.com; 445-3907

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.

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