Jonah Goldberg

"You know, I actually believe my own bull----."

That's what President Obama once told a reporter. If the man ever uttered a statement that spoke more to his approach to politics, I haven't heard it.

Whether it stems from a grandiose overconfidence in his own powers of persuasion, or the lessons he took from his years as a community organizer, or his own messianic conviction that he is on the right side of everything, including history itself, the president has operated under the theory that he can move the American people to his causes. And he can't. He just can't.

Yes, he got elected and re-elected, and that's saying something. But whatever personal popularity the man has doesn't transfer to domestic policy.

It's as if the American people are saying, "Mr. President, we're just not that in to you."

"What about health-care reform!?" his fans invariably respond.

Well, what about it? Sure, it passed. But the Affordable Care Act didn't become law because Obama ignited a populist prairie fire in favor of it. He dedicated vast, vast swaths of his time and energy trying to sell the American people on Obamacare. He never made the sale (and still hasn't). The misbegotten law's passage is attributable entirely to the fact that Democrats rammed it through Congress -- with a 60-vote majority in the Senate -- using the sorts of backroom deals and corporate giveaways the American people despise.

Ironically, the only populist mass movement on domestic policy issues Obama can claim credit for creating is the Tea Party, which I think we can all agree isn't what he had in mind.

Indeed, if Obamacare had been popular, the Democrats wouldn't have been dealt a "shellacking" -- Obama's words -- in the 2010 midterm elections. But they were. Democrats suffered a defeat of biblical proportions, despite Obama's relentless campaigning.

In 2012, after scoring an impressive re-election win, Obama apparently thought he solved the puzzle. He needed more organization, like he had in the election. Obviously everyone loves what he has to say, Obama reasoned, but he needed to translate that love into action. And so he rebranded his presidential campaign into his own personal grassroots operation, Organizing for Action. Action item No. 1? Gun control.

It's worth remembering that when Obama took up gun control in his State of the Union address, he set the bar at shin level for himself and for Senate Democrats. He didn't demand victory; he demanded a mere vote on the issue.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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