Jonah Goldberg

America is just not that into President Obama

Updated: 2013-04-20T23:53:47Z


Tribune Media Services

“You know, I actually believe my own bull——.”

That’s what President Barack Obama once told a reporter. If the man ever uttered a statement that spoke more to his approach to politics, I haven’t heard it.

Whether it stems from a grandiose overconfidence in his own powers of persuasion or his own messianic conviction that he is on the right side of everything, the president has operated under the theory that he can move the American people to his causes. And he can’t.

Yes, he got re-elected, and that’s saying something. But whatever personal popularity the man has doesn’t transfer to domestic policy. It’s as if the American people are saying, “Mr. President, we’re just not that into you.”

“What about health-care reform!?” his fans invariably respond.

Well, what about it? Sure, it passed. But the Affordable Care Act didn’t become law because Obama ignited a populist prairie fire in favor of it. He dedicated vast swaths of his energy trying to sell the American people on Obamacare. He never made the sale .

The law’s passage is attributable to the fact that Democrats rammed it through Congress using the sorts of backroom deals and corporate giveaways the American people despise.

Ironically, the only populist mass movement on domestic policy issues Obama can claim credit for creating is the tea party, which I think we can all agree isn’t what he had in mind.

Indeed, if Obamacare had been popular, the Democrats wouldn’t have been dealt a “shellacking” — Obama’s words — in the 2010 midterm elections.

In 2012, after scoring an impressive re-election win, Obama apparently thought he solved the puzzle. He needed more organization. And so he rebranded his presidential campaign into his own personal grassroots operation, Organizing for Action, OFA. Action item No. 1? Gun control.

Running through a list of victims he was all too eager to politicize — “The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote,” etc. — he brought the Democrats in the audience to their feet.

With the sort of willingness to politicize tragedy that is always denounced as the vilest cynicism when Republicans do anything of the sort, Obama and his paid OFA subalterns took to the streets and the airwaves waving the figurative bloody shirt of Newtown, with nary a peep from the same press corps that routinely denounced President George W. Bush for politicizing 9/11.

But when it came time to clear the shin-level hurdle he set for himself and OFA, they face-planted.

And now, the president is going to run the same play, again. “If this Congress refuses to listen to the American people and pass common-sense gun legislation, then the real impact is going to have to come from the voters,” he said in one of several bitter vows to use gun control to win back Congress in 2014.

As Josh Kraushaar of National Journal noted, Obama couldn’t misread the political environment heading into 2014 any worse. Why? Because the places where the Democrats need to win to take back the House — the South and Mountain West — are those areas where even many Democrats disagree with the president on gun control. Making it a central issue in 2014 is a boon to Republicans.

The upshot of this is that we will now endure nearly another two years of Obama haranguing us about how it’s him and “the people” against special interests that don’t care about murdered children.

Washington will become more shrill and get less done, all because Obama’s only play is an populist charade made possible by the fact he still believes his own bull——.

To reach Jonah Goldberg, send email to Follow him at

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