A recent poll shows that 85 percent of middle-class Americans believe they're worse off now than they were 10 years ago. Yet shockingly, just 34 percent of those people blame Barack Obama. More Americans blame Congress (62 percent), banks (54 percent), corporations (47 percent), former President George W. Bush (44 percent) and foreign competition (39 percent).
Why the disconnect?
These folks aren't entirely wrong. Congress did nothing about an out-of-control Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for a decade, and allowed the Federal Reserve to inflate the currency all the while. Banks played along with the regulatory regime in order to make short-term profits. President George W. Bush didn't do enough to free the real estate market from the shackles of liberal central planning.
But there's something else at play here: Americans are loath to believe that Barack Obama is a bad guy.
All of these other entities have a bad reputation. Congress has long been a repository for American unhappiness; the last time Congress was popular, it didn't exist. Banks have never enjoyed a warm and cozy reputation. George W. Bush was perhaps the least popular two-term president in modern history.
But Barack Obama still enjoys the goodwill of the American people. In large part, that's because he's personally popular. And he's personally popular because the American people still see in him, after four years of failure, as the answer to the most burning question in American history: can we bridge our racial gaps? The fact is this: Obama is not personally likeable. He is alternatively arrogant and smug, smarmy and nasty. He is not well liked on the Hill. Every story about his personal interactions has him lording over other participants.
And yet he's liked by the American people.
Obama has placed himself in perfect political position: he spent the 2008 campaign convincing the American people that he's a racial unifier rather than a divider, without any evidence to prove it. Now, the American people don't want to hear anything to the contrary. Whether it's a tape of Obama praising anti-Semitic America-hater Rev. Jeremiah Wright or a tape of him praising anti-Semitic America-hater Professor Derrick Bell, whether it's hanging with Palestinian terrorist supporter Rashid Khalidi or hiring Marxist Van Jones for the White House, none of it seems to matter.
Obama has spent his career dividing himself for different audiences. When he's talking to Hampton University in 2007, he puts on dialect he obviously believes lends him black authenticity, and proceeds to don the mantle of Kanye West, complaining about the racism of the federal government on Hurricane Katrina. When he's talking to the American public, he dumps the accent and talks about how we're all members of a great nation, regardless of race.
So which one is Obama?
His policies look a lot more like the radical than they do like the racial unifier. He said in his Hampton University speech that he wanted to spend money on the inner cities rather than the suburbs, largely for racial reasons; that's precisely what he's planning to do in his second term: work with radical community organizer Mike Kruglik to push "regional tax-based sharing," which would bleed the suburbs dry in favor of the inner cities. In his early days in Chicago, Obama focused largely on mobilizing the black vote to concentrate "black power" (his phrase); today, he opposes all efforts to crack down on voter ID fraud for the same reason. There's a reason that the Obama Justice Department has no interest in pursuing the New Black Panthers for voter intimidation. And it doesn't have to do with their kind and gentle interpersonal tactics.
Barack Obama remains well liked because Americans want to like him. They're willfully blinding themselves to the truer Obama, the more radical Obama. And that's just the way he likes it.