It seems interesting and sad that President Obama has so few ardent supporters left. The reality of his eroding support does not seem congruent with his level of accomplishment in the White House. Things have been tough for him during the first couple years of his Presidency, but he has made some pretty remarkable things happen. I suggested six weeks ago that the principal problem may be that his administration fails to tell its story well. There are not enough efforts to get his message out. I also believe the country has developed a sense of collective amnesia as we have run away from remembering that George W. Bush was our President for 8 years. Even the Republican Party has thoroughly distanced itself from him. Obama suffers from the lack of comparison now, as he benefitted from the constant comparisons in 2007 and 2008.
One thing I’ve begun to recognize about the prospect of creating new kinds of messages about the President is that there is no single message to trumpet. This is Barack Obama does not exist on a fixed point. There’s nothing immutable about him. He moves as he needs to move. Always.
I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day with this interpretation. Just consider the rough outline of Obama’s story. Half White, half Black. Born in the part of America that feels least like the rest of America. Living as an outsider in virtually every moment of his childhood. Being broke while in the Ivy League. And now, being young, inexperienced and Black in the Oval Office. He moves as he needs to move because he has always needed to do so.
That strength may be part of the reason President Obama seems such a natural mediator. In most contexts, that’s a tremendously valuable skill! I believe that he always wants to manage situations so that everyone feels a sense of victory. Just consider who his Secretary of State is!
Unfortunately, all those compromises and efforts at conciliation make it hard for him to lead. And, personally, Obama’s approach makes it hard for me to understand what matters most to the President. I don’t remember the last time he resolved to do (or not do) something because he cared about it enough NOT to compromise about it. Even though I think he’s made some fantastic successes, I imagine there’s not much he has done in office to inspire continuing faith in many people. There’s nothing to be counted on just because it exists at his core. There doesn’t seem to be a core.