This column appeared originally in THE DAILY BEAST.
No matter who wins the presidency on Tuesday, one outcome is all but certain: Barack Obama will draw less support and fewer votes after four years as president than he did as an untried, little-known, freshman senator from Illinois. In other words, the more the American people know about this particular politician the less they seem to like him.
Republicans and Democrats offer opposing explanations for the president's decline in popularity.
For the GOP, his lost backing demonstrates a failed presidency, with a truly disastrous combination of arrogance and incompetence.
For his loyal supporters, the fall-off in enthusiasm for the rapturously acclaimed liberal messiah of 2008 stems from the relentless war against him by his implacable opponents in right-wing media and Congress—an opposition rooted in extremism and racism, and culminating in character assassination and obstructionism.
Democrats worry that incessant assaults on the president have subtracted just enough from his standing with the public that he could lose the election; Republicans fear that blind loyalty to a bitter, flailing leader could leave him with just enough support so that he could win.
Both sides, however, apply the same distorted focus to their evaluation of the Obama presidency: concentrating almost entirely on the last two years of gridlock and polarization while forgetting all about the two years of one-party rule in 2009 and 2010.
The story of the first half of the president’s term of office doesn’t fit with either party's chosen narrative.
Democrats like to ignore their total dominance of the government during that period because they seek to escape all responsibility for the miserable economic conditions that still prevail in much of the nation. They don’t want reminders that Obama came to power with no need for Republican cooperation and that he made no serious effort to secure it: with filibuster-proof control of the Senate (60-40) and a crushing majority in the House (256-178), he could pass Obamacare without a single Republican vote and enact his stimulus package with the approval of no GOP House members and only three senators.