NO LIFEGUARD ON DUTY
President Obama has had to struggle just to keep his head above water for the last two years… and he’s done a laudable job of cleaning up toxic spills (both literal and metaphoric) left behind by his two predecessor’s stunning run of anti-regulation and flight from responsibility. President Clinton helped free up banks to merge and speculate on derivatives. President Bush helped drive us into massive debt by not pegging tax cuts to revenue. Yet, despite Mr. Obama’s sincere efforts to avert another depression, to reform Health Care and resolve foreign conflicts, the Democrats face the potential of historic losses tomorrow.
the long-building American fear of a loss of status, both personal and global ripened for the picking.
Voters are disappointed, we’re told, over and over. And why wouldn’t we be? Americans are an entertainment driven people. We like stories about winners. What President Obama forgot was what got him to 1600 Pennsylvania in the first place – a really snappy narrative. He was “turning the page” on history… he was “an outsider who would change politics”. All we had to do was get involved and turn out to vote and he would do the rest. The only problem is – once he got elected… he started juggling hand grenades and kept saying “hang on”.
Faced with the Presidential equivalent of a spinning computer hourglass, it’s no wonder voters began to drink the watered-down Kool-Aid of the 24-Hour News Channels and the Tea Partiers. Nature abhors a vacuum and the idea of “Making America Great Again” is a hell of a lot more appealing than “It’s going to be a long hard recession”, or “Times are tough”. Stories of TARP and the GM bailout turning a profit were slow to evolve and hard to predict. And so the long-building American fear of a loss of status, both personal and global ripened for the picking. And the Tea Party picked.
What Obama needs to do for 2012, and more importantly – for 2011, is to craft a good storyline. Get out in front and outline issues that he is willing to compromise on, like tax cuts, and seize the high ground by looking Presidential. Work on balancing the budget. Listen to voters instead of talking to them. Get young people involved again, and invested in the success of his administration, instead of just sitting around getting updates on Facebook. Most important — set short term goals and get supporters to help achieve them, to give the sense, real or imagined, that things are being accomplished… because people love any story where they get to be the star.
Americans are resourceful and resilient, capable of endless reinvention, none more so than our Hawaiian President. And if he’s smart, Mr. Obama will realize he’s missed this big wave, but that there are plenty of other waves coming along right behind it. All he has to do is point us toward the next one and start paddling.