One year after Obama election: nation wakes up to reality with its president
RIA Novosti political commentator Andrei Fedyashin
History repeats itself every November after a U.S. presidential election: Barack Obama, like every other American president, is facing problems with the polls.
According to the latest polls from early November, 52%-53% of respondents approve of Obama's performance as president, while 38%-40% disapprove of it. It may be hard to believe, but judging from these polls, no other U.S. president has lost popularity as quickly as Mr. Obama in the last 50 years. On inauguration day, his approval rating approached 82%, and has fallen by almost 30% since the 2008 election.
Although it staggers the imagination, even George W. Bush's ratings increased from 60% to some 78% by November 2001, a year after his election. The Republicans assert that Mr. Obama has been losing popularity since summer, and this process is irreversible. Ultra-right Republicans and Conservatives believe that Mr. Obama is approaching his end.
The Left also seem to have turned their backs on the president who hasn't lived up to their hopes. Guantanamo hasn't been closed down, troops haven't been withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress hasn't passed legislation to prevent climate change, healthcare reform hasn't started, and there have been no limits put on FBI and CIA abuses. The anti-Obama sentiment that was once confined to the fringes is likely to become more mainstream, a typical trend in the United States.
The famous ageing American intellectual and writer Gore Vidal, who switched camps from Hillary Clinton to Mr. Obama, announced this autumn that he was mistaken, that "America has no intellectual class and is rotting away at a funeral pace," and "we'll have military dictatorship soon on the basis nobody else can hold everything together." Mr. Vidal even anticipates Obama's assassination (Heaven forbid).
From all appearances, things are going poorly. There is something wrong with America, and no politician from the Left, Right or Centre seems to be able to fix it. America's troubles include politics, the economy, finance, social services, and healthcare. It has been unsuccessful in handling the financial crisis, the war in Iraq, and Afghanistan run by President Hamid Karzai, the Iranian nuclear problem, the Russia of Putin and the Russia of Medvedev, climate change, Guantanamo, START, the Middle East, the missile shield in Europe, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, banks, the automobile industry, political correctness, and its reputation in the world, to name just a few issues.
Such a list of problems would have eroded the approval rating of George W. Bush as early as his first term. However cynical it may sound, even the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which unified the nation in the face of a major external enemy, wouldn't have rescued Mr. Bush. However, it would be unwise to draw conclusions from polls without taking into account the background against which they emerge. One will be able to judge Obama's performance as president no sooner than next autumn, when his initiatives begin to take shape and bear actual fruits.
It is worth mentioning that most Americans voted for Obama not because they were suddenly enamored with the Democrats or the well-established capabilities and experience of the former senator for Illinois. The nation simply got sick and tired of the Republicans and Mr. Bush, and transferred that weariness onto the Republican candidate John McCain, who, with his gerontological image, was not seen as someone able to cure America of its fatigue. Mr. Obama's victory was a triumph of hope over experience, and such sentiments quickly become less appealing as one grows up. The U.S. is growing up and learning to live with its first African-American president.
By the time they reach their first major milestone, which comes a year after their victory in the election or nine months after assuming office on January 20, all U.S. presidents have seen their approval rates drop. This comes as no surprise since America tends to wake up to reality a year after its presidential election. Mr. Obama's falling approval rating is in line with this common trend. Mr. Obama is also waking up to reality with the nation, which is hardly a unique phenomenon either, since every president usually goes through it. A lot of remarkable events have taken place during this process of waking up to reality, and more are still to come.
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