Is Obama doomed in 2012?
- 1 January 2012
- From the section US & Canada
2012 will be an important year for America. The president, elected amid such optimism and enthusiasm in 2008, could be chucked out of office. The times feel very different. Obama was elected promising hope and change.
Change there may be in 2012, but there was precious little hope around in 2011. The election will be a clash of two Americas and two very different economic visions of what the country should be. Whoever wins the election in November, the result will leave the losers with a sour taste. The US could be a fractious, jittery place by the end of the year.
Vice-President Joe Biden has a saying: "Don't judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative." This is the year Mr Obama will indeed be judged against the alternative. Some think this will save him. So a lot hangs on whom the Republicans choose as their candidate for the next president of the United States. More on that from Iowa in the coming week.
The other major factor in whether or not Obama survives in office is the state of the economy. There are glints of light, indications it is getting a little better. But another set-back in Europe could blow the US further off course. And whatever story of slight optimism the statistics tell, most Americans won't be bathed in the glow of a feel-good factor.
It is hard not to look back on the mood in 2008 without shaking your head slightly. There is little doubt President Obama has been a disappointment. He has disappointed many supporters, disappointed those in the middle ground, and even, curiously, disappointed his enemies.
Obama loyalists will point out that no mortal could have lived up to the expectations heaped upon his head, especially when he had been dealt such a poor hand. They argue that he has saved the country from ruin, while accepting no-one gets credit for preventing disasters.
But it is also true that many of those who strongly backed him, and will still back him, think he has not been bold enough and has not confronted those who were always going to tear him down.
Many in the less ideological middle ground have the opposite complaint. They are often disappointed that instead of the dawn of a new politics, there has been a exacerbation of politics as usual.
One of Obama's key appeals was as a healer, a bridge as one biography put it. He preached a future where Americans would work together, reaching across party divides. Instead, the bitterness, distrust, and gridlock have grown worse.
While he talked of changing the way politics was done, we have seen the same old Washington grow in strength and obstructionism, more broken, even less desirous of reaching solutions than before. Maybe that is not his fault. But it is not his triumph either. The obstacles have been piled higher, not blown out of the way.
His enemies were never going to like what he was about, and what he stands for. They would never applaud his economics or his foreign policy. But the best politicians earn a sneaking admiration for their skills even from those who detest what they do with their talents.
Mrs Thatcher did. Tony Blair did. FDR did. (It's probably true Reagan didn't.) But Republicans think Obama has handled the politics badly, and Congress worse. He has been politically clumsy handing both allies and opponents.
So the charge sheet against him is long. But that does not mean he will lose. The odds are about even. So much depends on his opponent, the economy and his strategy. I will be following all three very closely, and you can read about it first here.
A Happy New Year to one and all!