Political Physics – Are You Ready to Send a Dear John Letter to the President?


a blogumn by Monique King-Viehland

The day before yesterday I was having a conversation with my mother about what I should write about this week for Political Physics.  I was contemplating complaining about how unfair it is that I may be in danger of losing my job because Governor Corzine recently lost his reelection bid in the State of New Jersey.  However, after rising from my abyss of self-pity, I actually started to listen to the conversation that my mother had been engaged in with me for the last twenty minutes.

“Where has all the love gone…that is what you should write about?  Why is everybody hating on President Obama now when we were all in love with him a minute ago!” she said.   My mom is not the first person I have heard lamenting the treatment of President Obama lately by a variety of people (e.g., Republicans, Democrats, FOX News, etc.).  But are things really that bad?

Is American really ready to send the President a “Dear John” letter?

According to Keith Richburg of the Washington Post, President Obama’s opponents are gaining momentum and their voices are growing louder.  In a recent editorial in the Observer Report Richburg said, “His critics on the far right – who never really bought into ‘Obamamania’ but felt silenced by his popularity – are increasingly strident in their attacks. And his supporters on the far left, once breathlessly trading YouTube links of every Obama campaign speech, find themselves disillusioned that he was not the populist champion who would immediately bring American troops home and create universal health care.”  Richburg points to several polls that indicate that the President’s approval rating has declined – a Washington Post poll found that the President’s approval rating dropped from 79% two days after the election to 57% in October.  Other polls put the rating even lower – Gallup and NBC News at 51% and CNN at 55%.

A recent NY Times editorial entitled, No Walk in the Park: For Obama One Year Later, It’s the Slog of Governance, Peter Baker agrees with my mom and Richburg that Obama’s popularity is waning as his shiny image begins to tarnish.  Baker notes, “…the romanticized, Hollywood-buffed image of Mr. Obama, captured in the HBO movie “By the People” that premiered Tuesday night, has given way to a more conventional picture, of a politician who inspires and disappoints, energizes and irritates. The promise of a different way of doing business has at times looked to many like politics as usual.”

Moreover, Chris Anderson of Opinion Dynamics commenting on a near 10-point decrease in the President’s approval rating in a recent Fox News poll said that “These poll results highlight just how quickly the glow of inauguration festivities fades as well as the fluid state of public opinion in this tumultuous time.  The 9-point decrease in Obama’s personal favorability rating actually masks a larger shift over the last month and that is a massive change of heart among Republicans towards the president personally. In mid-January a majority of Republicans had a favorable opinion of Obama and now a majority views him unfavorably.”

But the real question is what did we expect?  Did we buy so deeply into the messiah-like appeal of President Obama that we were not prepared to forgive him if he could not part the Red Sea and walk on water?

Back in April, I wrote a Political Physics blog about President Obama’s first one hundred days.  In that article I said that I thought it was irresponsible and perhaps even a little dangerous to use the first one hundred days to measure the Obama Presidency.  I’d argue that less than a year still might be too soon for us to issue a “Dear John” letter to the President and in fact, I don’t think the majority of Americans are dissatisfied with their “relationship” with President Obama.

As Richburg notes, “the debate over the $787 billion stimulus package and the bailout of the motor industry stoked fears that Obama was spending too much.  Projections of soaring deficits have spooked fiscal conservatives. The August shouting match over health reform – with cries of “death panels” pulling the plug on aging grannies and Republicans decrying a government “takeover” of health care – [has taken] its toll.”  However, though Republicans and professed Independents have turned away from the President, “Democrats still largely support the President, even if some of the left are growing frustrated.”

In January, Gallup began tracking the percentage of Americans who approve or disapprove of the job President Obama is doing on a daily basis.  If you look at that poll there has been about a 10 to 13 point fluctuation between January at 66% and November at 53%.  But I would not expect any less.

We are in the midst of one of the worst economic crisis this country has seen since the Great Depression.

We are in the midst of not one, but two, wars.

A debate is waging over a health care reform bill passed when similar measures have failed miserably.

The national debt has reached far into the trillions.

I am not sure that those 10 points reflect the end of their love affair with the President as much as the transition from the honeymoon to the reality or marriage.

I am still madly in love with my President, what about you?  Are you still madly in love with your President or have you already mailed your “Dear John” letter?