Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell, two Democrats of the more independent streak, have some sobering and startling advice for President Barack Obama. If he wants to save his faltering presidency, he must promise not to run for a second term.
“If the president goes down the reelection road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.
“We do not come to this conclusion lightly. But it is clear, we believe, that the president has largely lost the consent of the governed. The midterm elections were effectively a referendum on the Obama presidency. And even if it was not an endorsement of a Republican vision for America, the drubbing the Democrats took was certainly a vote of no confidence in Obama and his party. The president has almost no credibility left with Republicans and little with independents.
“The best way for him to address both our national challenges and the serious threats to his credibility and stature is to make clear that, for the next two years, he will focus exclusively on the problems we face as Americans, rather than the politics of the moment – or of the 2012 campaign.”
There are a number of problems with the particular piece of advice, which is heartfelt and well-meaning.
First, President Obama has already been governing as if his second term was in the bag. How else does one explain health care reform, passed over the strenuous objections of the American people, thousands of whom were encamped around the Capitol, yelling for Congress to stop? Even the “shellacking” Obama’s party took this November has not proved to be a deterrent. President Obama has promised to veto any attempt to overturn health care reform, thus giving Sarah Palin endless applause for lines about death panels and long waits for heart procedures.
Second, while Barack Obama is a skilled practitioner of partisan rancor and political polarization, he is hardly the only one in the Democratic Party who likes to behave in this manner. We cannot possibly believe that whoever runs in Obama’s place in 2012 is going to run on the principle of compromise with the Republicans or reaching across the aisle.
Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, and likely six to eight other Democrats who see the way open to the Oval Office will vie for the nomination on the principle of who will best be able to hammer the enemies of the people, which is to say the Republicans and those Tea Party rabble.
The media will whip things up as well, likely on the theme that those evil Tea Party rebels drove the saintly “calm black man” from office and revenge must be taken to make things right. Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert will compete for who can do the most snippy bit running down anyone who ever said a cross word against President Obama. Maher, by the way, will win hands down, mainly because he is meaner than Stewart and Colbert put together.
The third problem is the President’s ego. He cannot not run for reelection. If he does as Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell ask, then he will be admitting not only fault, but failure. And that can never, never be.
Source: One and done: To be a great president, Obama should not seek reelection in 2012, Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell, Washington Post, November 14th, 2010