Unhappiness with the public is not confined to Politico. Joe Trippi, the political consultant who managed Howard Dean’s Icarus-like campaign for the presidency in 2004, said recently at something called the South by Southwest Interactive festival that it is unfair for people to be unhappy with President Obama and feel that, somehow, he has not delivered for them. “You can’t just send one guy into Washington, thinking he can change all that. Whether you think Obama did or didn’t try, it’s not possible for him to change things.”
That rings of truth. But, then, one thinks, wasn’t the whole point of sending Obama to Washington that he was going to change things? Wasn’t he going to move us past the old politics and into a new, post-partisan world? People may have been wrong to believe that but it was the Joe Trippis of the world who sold it so remorselessly. Perhaps the public was stupid to believe the message. But only if the political class that was pushing it was doing so cynically and didn’t believe it, either.
Al Gore also got his oar into the water on the great theme of how far our politics have strayed. Speaking in Texas last week, he said, “Our democracy has been hacked. It no longer works, in the main, to serve the interests of our people.”
Gore said that the solution lies in using digital media, Facebook, and the rest, to “change the democratic conversation.”
Lots more input, then, from those stupid people who haven’t mastered the “factual components of the national political debate.”
Finally, there is a New Yorker piece by Ezra Klein in which he examines the notion of the bully pulpit and concludes that as a game changer, presidential rhetoric isn’t all that it has been cracked up to be. It is well researched and argued. Also, it is plainly meant to serve as an alibi for Obama who was hailed as the greatest orator to occupy the White House since … pick one, Reagan, Roosevelt, or Lincoln.
While one is inclined to agree with the thesis that good speeches might be overrated as a force in politics and run, mostly, a distant second to the public’s sense of economic contentment, one does feel a slight qualm.
This piece would likely not have been published during President Obama’s first term when he had majorities in Congress and was okay in the polls. He had his way then but, when it came time for a referendum, the people (those ever clueless people) rose up and voted “no.” They put a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
After that, it became permissible to call the voters “stupid.”
Things can change quickly in politics, as we are tediously reminded, and one wonders how the political class will view the public, the machinery of politics, and the gift of oratory if the economy takes off, the Iranians back down, and regular starts selling for two fifty a gallon.
Then, it will be remarkable to see just how much the public has smartened up.