Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The disintegrating relationship between Obama and Congressional Dems

Thank goodness there's something to blog about besides Rick Perry or Ferguson.

It was perhaps only a matter of time before Democrats, in the midst of a challenging midterm election campaign, began distancing themselves from an unpopular president. President Barack Obama's average approval rating sits at 41.6%, according to Real Clear Politics, and he has been under fire recently for the way he has handled crises both at home and abroad.

A New York Times story published Tuesday lays out the overall deteriorating relationship between Obama and congressional Democrats. One anecdote involving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, stemming from a late-June meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the deteriorating situation in Iraq, tells it best.

With Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sitting a few feet away, Mr. Reid complained that Senate Republicans were spitefully blocking the confirmation of dozens of Mr. Obama’s nominees to serve as ambassadors. He expected that the president would back him up and urge Mr. McConnell to relent.

Mr. Obama quickly dismissed the matter.

"You and Mitch work it out," Mr. Obama said coolly, cutting off any discussion.

Mr. Reid seethed quietly for the rest of the meeting, according to four separate accounts provided by people who spoke with him about it. After his return to the Capitol that afternoon, Mr. Reid told other senators and his staff members that he was astonished by how disengaged the president seemed. After all, these were Mr. Obama’s own ambassadors who were being blocked by Mr. McConnell, and Secretary of State John Kerry had been arguing for months that getting them installed was an urgent necessity for the administration.

Long-time readers know that this is the sort of thing that made me step away from Obama years ago; his refusal to engage -- either as aggressor or as mediator -- in any meaningful way.  It has cost his supporters and the Democratic Party a lot, it's even cost the American people quite a bit (universal single payer  public option is what I mean)... and now his insouciance may finally be costing him.

The exchange between Obama and Reid, considering that Reid is Obama's staunchest congressional ally, was the most striking anecdote in a Times story that portrayed a president with dwindling friends on Capitol Hill. The article contains criticism from a wide array of Democrats, including from the red-state Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), one of the Senate's most left-leaning members.

Manchin, quote unquote, speaking about his relationship with the president: "It's fairly nonexistent, really. There's not much of (one)."

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) compared "schmoozing with elected officials" to "eating his spinach" for Obama, but Democrats told the paper that Obama's lack of reaching out harmed congressional relationships.

We could go on a bit more here, but I think you get the point.

As for Democrats in close elections in red states, they're not waiting around for the president to warm up.  Mark Begich in Alaska is running against Obama.  Alison Grimes in Kentucky is running against Obama.  Wendy Davis has given him a stiff arm or two to some criticism, including my own.  That's right; I am flip-flopping.  I no longer think that there are very many Blue Teamers in tight races that have more to gain than lose by standing with the president.

Contrary to what I advised here, it's time for every Democrat not in a safe district or a blue state to do what they have to do in order to get elected.  And if that means speaking out against Obama's slow response to the appalling civil rights travesties in Ferguson, or his lack of assertiveness in more forcefully coalescing international support against the gathering menace of ISIS, or addressing the First Amendment perils -- to say nothing of the threats to their lives -- to members of the US media at home and abroad... then do it.

When Rick Perry is drawing sympathy from Latinos (Dave Jimenez, about halfway down the page) who oppose his border surge but attended the governor's mugshot pep rally yesterday as a supporter, you know it's time for the rest of us to turn the page.

It's going to be a little too late for Obama to help Senate Democrats carry out his agenda if the upper chamber flips red in November.  By that time, it will be all they can do to prevent him from being impeached.

He'd better start making friends and mending fences.  Fast.  Likewise for the rest of you blue partisans; it's every man for himself.

Update: More on this from Ezra Klein at Vox, who says this is no big deal.  It doesn't seem like Ezra is looking far enough ahead -- as in beyond November.

Update II: At least one endangered Senate Democrat, David Pryor of Arkansas, is running hard on support of Obamacare, a topic Wayne at Texas Leftist has covered.


Gadfly said...

But, Obama won't. Whichever party has the Senate, the last two years are going to be hell.

I like reminding Obots that the primary reason he looks even halfway good is the "soft bigotry of low expectations" from following Shrub.

PDiddie said...

That seems to be Ezra Klein's take (update above) as well.

I don't know about that, but I can grant you both that -- to keep the heat metaphors going -- it's a frying pan/fire kinda thing.