Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Obama Should Do

President Obama is touring the swing states, trying to reignite the passion that voters felt two years ago. By all accounts, he is doing a poor job of it. Part of the problem is the enormous disconnect between the President and the country. Voters are angry about bailouts and deficits but Obama does not recognize this. Instead seeing voter anger as a rejection of his policies, he sees it as a product of irrationality.

Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared. And the country's scared.

There are several problems with the President's explanation. The first one is that it leaves no room for political dissent. If you reject his policies then you must be irrational.

The second is that he got his science wrong. It is true that fear, real fear accompanied by an adrenaline rush, will cause the cool, rational part of your brain to shut down in favor of the older lizard reflexes. This can cause irrational behavior like running while on fire instead of dropping and rolling, but this condition is fleeting. It is gone as soon as the adrenaline rush fades. It does not cause long-term voter anger.

The President's third problem is that he does not recognize the many mistakes that he has made. The biggest mistake is that he did not make jobs and the economy his top priority.

So, what should he be doing? He is about to be firmly repudiated. He needs to take pro-active action on this. He needs to admit that the voters have reason to be angry with him personally. He needs to acknowledge that health care and the oil spill were major distractions and that he should have put the American people ahead of his Progressive agenda.

Right now he is trying to rally the troops by saying that the coming congressional losses will endanger his Progressive policies. Most of the country does not care. They want jobs more than they want cap-and-trade. They don't want health care reform if it is going to slow the economy. He needs to justify the "shovel-ready jobs" that he now says do not exist. Instead of talking about what great things he has done he needs to admit that he could have done better and promise that he will do better in the future.

The Republicans have already done this. They embraced the Tea Party and rejected some of the big-government members. This may cost them some elections but it shows that they are serious about reforming themselves. This is there answer to Obama's charge that voting for the Republicans will be returning to the same old solutions.

Probably nothing can save the Democrats from major losses but Obama could at least generate a little last-minute sympathy. This is not in his nature. He believes that he is a superior being who operates on a higher plane, untroubled by irrationality or fear. He sees the correct path and those who do not have been blinded by fear and other problems. that attitude is not going to win over a swing-voter who wants to hear what the President is going to do to fix the economy.

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