As I have pointed out in many previous posts, the holiday season is the perfect time to get a read on the political feelings of the country. Thanksgiving and Christmas are America’s focus groups, where we sit back, talk and discuss what is going on in disparate regions of the country that relatives come from, and get a pretty good idea as to what the economy is doing.
In my case I know my focus group is a little biased: I have a Black family and a Black family means that most folks are voting Democratic, at least on the presidential level, so there aren’t many independents and leaners in my household. However, between friends and family I did get two very interesting assessments that paint a not too unrealistic picture for Obama heading into his re-election bid.
My two focus group participants were:
Bob (Fake names to protect and better harass my friends and family): My best friend from college, a 30 something year old doctor in New York City with a wife and toddler. Far left Democrat from Democratic leaning family.
Uncle Carl: (Another fake name, although doesn’t everyone have an Uncle Carl? I’ve met a few) Late 50’s black male business executive with 30 plus years at Ford Motor company living in Detroit. Married father of two.
What did I learn from my unofficial, completely unbeknownst to them focus groups that I conducted while eating Christmas dinner and snacks? Obama has both huge problems and no problems with his base. My friend from college is so thoroughly disappointed with Obama you’d think the president borrowed Bob’s favorite shirt then lost it at the laundromat. He said:
“He hasn’t been a leader, at all. On anything. I know he’s done some good things, but, I don’t know, maybe I expected more, his people certainly played into people’s high expectations and didn’t try to downplay them at all.”
And then the kicker….
“I honestly think that Hillary Clinton would have made a better president. I think she would’ve been a better negotiator.”
Yep, that sounds about right. While disappointment with the presidency of Barack Obama is pretty universal his Generation X liberal White base is significantly more disappointed than any of the other core constituencies that the formed his winning coalition in 2008. The president is going to get these voters again, my friend and his ilk are too educated and politically committed to either not vote or vote for a Republican. But, they’re not going to volunteer, give any money and certainly won’t be enthusiastically telling their friends the vote the way they were in 2008. You know – broken hearts and all. Now, Obama’s other constituency is represented by my Uncle Carl, who had the following to say about the Commander in Chief:
“I don’t think people understand, maybe outside of Michigan. That if the president hadn’t done what he did, like take over the auto-industry, the loss of jobs would be much, much worse. This country needs a middle class because they take on the brunt of the taxes. Rich people they aren’t going to pay it all. There aren’t that many of them. ”
When I asked him if the president had saved the auto industry from total annihilation, Carl wouldn’t go that far. But, he did say:
“Well … look. What a lotta people don’t understand is that every job in the plant, all those workers, for every union worker that people think is lazy and is making so much more money than them – and they aren’t – those people have about 50 other jobs depending on them.”
We went on to talk about how the loss of auto-factory workers would affect how many supplies are sent to a plant, which affects truckers, suppliers, maintenance staff and on down the economic food chain, not to mention the families and small businesses that are affected by auto workers losing their jobs. Obama’s got Uncle Carl’s vote, and he would have his volunteer time too if his job didn’t prevent him from getting all political in the workplace.
So what did my little American Focus groups teach me? Well, first: of course I have a biased sample. All of my friends and relatives are employed and are professionals so they don’t reflect some of the real pain and frustration out there.
However, what I did hear was that Obama is not going to win this election by getting people excited about him anymore. I think that ship has passed. I’m not even talking about bringing things back to where they were in 2008 (which is almost impossible). I’m talking about he will have to fight hard to bring his core constituents back to the phones and computers to push him over the top in key states across the country. Even people who acknowledge his success are disappointed that he hasn’t done more, and that he’s appeared so darn weak in the process. His saving grace just might be that he’s likely running against someone who’s even worse off. Mitt Romney barely has any supporters to disappoint, so I can only imagine that his focus groups are even more depressing than mine.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.