Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 7:49 pm | Fair 69º

 
 
 
 

Mona Charen: Obama Camp Falls Back on ‘Here Come the Extremists!’ Rhetoric

Democrats know that any credible Republican could defeat the president in 2012

It isn’t quite panic yet, but the sounds emanating from Obamaland are certainly nervous. If you are David Axelrod, chief strategist for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, you are well aware of your idol’s fall and doubtless less than thrilled to get this question from CNN’s Candy Crowley:

“Something that the president said this week struck me ... he said it’s not as cool to be an Obama supporter as it was in 2008. ... I think he’s right. I think it’s not as cool to be an Obama supporter now. How do you get cool back into this?”

Gee, how do you compare a campaign that was based entirely on vapid promises and vaporous sentiment with a referendum on actual job performance? Axelrod denied (unconvincingly) that the 2008 campaign had been a “cult of personality” and assured Crowley that once the campaign gets “fully engaged and the choices become clear, you are going to see a great deal of activity out there on his behalf.” In a signal of just how feeble the case for Obama’s re-election is, Axelrod fell back on the bogeyman:

“I think one of the things that’s going to inform that campaign is whether that Republican candidate is going to yield to some of the forces within his own party or her own party that is driving their — their party further to the right.”

For the record, there has never been a time in the past 50 years that the Democrats have not claimed to detect a frightening rightward tilt in the GOP — even as the party has nominated such wild-eyed radicals as George H.W. Bush, John McCain and George W. (“compassionate conservative”) Bush.

Crowley pointed out that support for the president among independents has declined from 52 percent in the 2008 election to 42 percent today, and that even among staunch liberals, 89 percent of whom voted for Obama in 2008, support has dipped to 64 percent. How does the Obama team re-create a victory in light of these numbers?

She might have added so much more to that question. She might have asked how an incumbent requests re-election when the unemployment is at 9.1 percent. Even more worrisome, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fully half of the jobless are now long-term unemployed, meaning they have been without jobs for 27 weeks or longer. That is the highest percentage of long-term unemployed since the Labor Department starting keeping such records in 1948.

She might have asked how an incumbent achieves a vote of confidence when commodity prices on food and fuel are rising and, relatedly, the value of the dollar is plunging; when the housing market has yet to recover from the crash despite (or, more likely, because of) the president’s Home Affordable Modification Program, which has prevented markets from clearing; when a record one in seven Americans now receives food stamps; when one out of six Americans is on Medicaid; and when a whopping 62.5 percent of respondents say the nation is on the wrong track.

When the economy is strong, elections can turn on a variety of issues. But when the economy is poor, elections are seldom about anything else. The 1980 race was illustrative.

Though the Jimmy Carter/Ronald Reagan race is remembered now as a landslide for Reagan, the contours of the victory were not apparent during the campaign. As late as Oct. 29, Gallup had the race as a dead heat, with Reagan at 44 percent and President Carter at 43 (it was a three-man race). Other polling showed larger margins for Reagan but nothing like the 10-point margin of victory he achieved. At the time, the contest was perceived as close.

It was after the first and only debate, a week before Election Day, that voters definitively moved into Reagan’s column. At the time, inflation was running at 13.5 percent, unemployment was 7 percent and interest rates were 21 percent. American hostages remained in Tehran. Carter’s approval ratings hovered in the 30s during the final year of his tenure.

Why wasn’t Carter perceived as hopelessly weak? Perhaps because as bad as things were, voters needed to be confident about the challenger’s fitness. Carter had succeeded to some degree in frightening voters about Reagan’s (you guessed it) right-wing extremism. Reagan’s reassuring debate performance allayed those fears. And Reagan’s summation drilled to the heart of voters’ concerns. Ask yourself, Reagan advised, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

The economy today is in some respects worse than it was in 1980. Barring a catastrophe, little else will matter in 2012. Any credible Republican can defeat Obama — which is why Axelrod is already smearing as “extremist” a person whose name he does not know.

Mona Charen writes for Creators Syndicate. Click here for more information or to contact her.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >