It is nothing short of amazing the amount of energy people are willing to expend fighting change.
Change is a fact of life. It routinely happens without our knowledge. And it frequently happens without our consent. The best we can hope for is to not be caught totally unaware and that the timing at least manages to work in our favor.
Which is why, I am sure, Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point continues to be so popular. It helps explain how the little things that slip by unnoticed can act like a virus spreading and infecting other change agents until change becomes an epidemic that suddenly consume everything in its path.
…the Tipping Point is a place where the unexpected becomes expected, where radical change is more than a possibility. It is — contrary to all expectations — a certainty.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, affecting change is not an exact science. People, business, industries and governments spend vast amounts of money trying to create the change they want — but with mostly limited success. There are just too many variables to realistically control. And timing is everything.
Take, for instance, President Obama’s televised speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night.
It was billed as a speech to introduce the American Jobs Act — Obama’s (estimated) $450 billion plan for putting Americans back to work through a combination of tax credits, job training and school renovations. The speech, of course, wasn’t just about jobs for the American people. With the 2012 presidential election only 14 months away, it was also about Obama’s own job and his future job as president.
But here’s the thing, no matter how well Obama spoke or what strategy or theme he used to rebrand or better position himself for the presidential race ahead and regardless of the talking points coming from the either the right or left in analyzing his speech, Obama’s real fight was and is against the messages and images of him that are already out there.
These are images the American people have had three years to develop and accept. And these are messages that are now being sung by an ever-widening bipartisan choir. So when these images and messages are being echoed by his own party members and his most vociferous supporters, it seems reasonable to assume that these images and messages will continue to resonate as truth to the American people.
So what are the Obama messages and images that are now stuck in the hearts and minds of average Americans?
Google helpfully supplied the first clue when I typed in the word Obama the day before his latest jobs speech. Google search suggested “Obama approval rating” (not good, see below), then “Obama jokes”. This is rather telling. If the second most popular search on Obama is for jokes about him, then the American people are no longer seeing him as the serious, trusted and capable leader they were led to believe he was in 2008.
If you have any doubt just look at the images and messages being painted by a round-up of polls and articles over just this last week.
From the Pained and Disbelieving:
Obama and Jobs: Why I Don’t Believe Him Anymore (Matt Taibbi/ Rolling Stone Politics):
So it was either sit underneath a full-volume broadcast of our fearless president [Obama] bellowing out his latest hollow promises, or the hellish alternative: retreat to gates full of screaming five year-old children, all of them jacked up on sugar and bawling their eyes out because it was the end of Labor Day weekend and their cruel parents were dragging them home from Disneyworld.
I ended up choosing the screaming children…
I just don’t believe this guy anymore, and it’s become almost painful to listen to him.
From the Far Less Confident:
The incredible shrinking Obama (Glenn Trush and Carrie Budoff Brown/ Politico)
…voters are far less confident than early months of his administration that Obama possesses the “right set of characteristics” or policy goals to be president, according to the NBC News/ Wall Street Journal Survey.
More than 60 percent of those surveyed say they disapprove of the way the president is handling the economy, according to a third poll – this one by the Washington Post and ABC News – that came out Tuesday.
“The question isn’t what will the speech say. The question is what does he do after the speech is over,” asks a Democratic aide.
From the Strongly Disapproving and Disenchanted:
Obama’s base grows disenchanted (The Fix/ The Washington Post):
On his overall job approval rating, those who strongly disapprove outnumber those strongly approving 36 percent to 23 percent, including 37 percent to 14 percent among independents.
The poll also shows 45 percent of people strongly disapprove of his handling of the economy, including 48 percent of independents.
Another interesting number from the Resurgent Republic poll: 60 percent of people said Obama turned out to be a weaker president than they thought he would be.
From the No Longer Confident:
Only 18% Say U.S. Heading In Right Direction (Rasmussen Report 9/7/11):
Since the third week in July, the number of voters who are confident in the nation’s current course has resembled levels measured in the final months of the Bush administration… 14% to 18%.
Seventy-six percent (76%) of voters say the country is heading down the wrong track…
(Apparently it is hard to keep hope alive when having changed party and presidential leadership from the Republican Bush 43, the American people still find themselves on the wrong track.)
From the No Longer Approving:
President Barack Obama earned the lowest monthly job approval rating of his presidency to date in August, with 41% of U.S. adults approving of his overall job performance, down from 44% in July. He also received term-low monthly job approval ratings from both Hispanics (48%) and whites (33%) and tied his lowest rating from blacks (84%).
From the Scared and Hopeless:
Cut to the chase on jobs, Mr. President (The Washington Post):
Right now, there is no light at the end of this collapsing economic tunnel, and we need a president who can at least bring a ray of hope inside the tunnel with us.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m not scared of tough times,” Obama said in Detroit.
That’s a pretty dim ray, Mr. President.
Of course you’re not scared of tough times. What’s to be scared of when you’re fresh from a $50,000-a-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard? Going to an oceanside villa last month while millions are losing their homes and jobs suggests you don’t know much about these tough times. And stop trying to sound like a Baptist preacher when you say, “I don’t know about you,” least people start to take it literally.
From the Disillusioned and No Longer Defending:
It’s no longer Obama-land in the Hamptons (Post Partisan/The Washington Post)
The Hamptons is where the Democratic energy, money and intellectual firepower of Manhattan goes for R&R. It’s just not another beach.
Over the Labor Day weekend, I went to a number of events in the Hamptons. At all of them, Obama was discussed. At none of them — that’s none — was he defended. That was remarkable. After all, sitting around various lunch and dinner tables were mostly Democrats. Not only that, some of them had been vociferous Obama supporters, giving time and money to his election effort. They were all disillusioned.
Let me call the roll. I am talking about are writers and editors, lawyers and shrinks, Wall Street tycoons and freelance photographers, hedge funders and academics, run-of-the-mill Democrats and Democratic activists. They were all politically sophisticated, and just a year ago some of them were still vociferous Obama supporters. No more.
From the Environmentally Disappointed:
Al’s Journal : Confronting Disappointment (Al Gore):
On Friday afternoon, as brave and committed activists continued their non-violent civil disobedience outside the White House in protest of the tar sands pipeline that would lead to a massive increase in global warming pollution, President Obama ordered the EPA to abandon its pursuit of new curbs on emissions that worsens disease-causing smog in US cities. Earlier this year, the EPA’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, wrote that the levels of pollution now permitted — put in place by the Bush-Cheney administration– are “not legally defensible.” Those very same rules have now been embraced by the Obama White House.
Notice how Gore neatly contrasts and compares the “brave and committed activists” with the (by implication) not-so brave and committed Obama. Ouch!
From the No Longer Watching:
The NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, WTMJ TV announced yesterday they will not be airing Obama’s jobs speech at 7 PM EST Thursday night. instead they are opting for their own pre-game coverage of the Packers Saints game scheduled to kick off at 8 PM. Green Bay’s NBC affiliate, NBC 26, will also go with the Packers pre-game show over Obama.
From the Amused and Unenthused:
The irrelevancy of the Obama presidency ( Dana Milbank/Washington Post).
President Obama gave one of the most impassioned speeches of his presidency when he addressed a joint session of Congress Thursday night. Too bad so many in the audience thought it was a big, fat joke…
The lawmakers weren’t particularly hostile toward the president – they just regarded the increasingly unpopular Obama as irrelevant. And the inclination not to take the 43-percent president seriously wasn’t entirely limited to the Republicans…
In fact, the empty seats were on the Democratic side. Democrats lumbered to their feet to give the president several standing ovations, but they struggled at times to demonstrate enthusiasm. When Obama proposed payroll tax cuts for small businesses, three Democrats stood to applaud. Summer jobs for disadvantaged youth brought six Democrats to their feet, and a tax credit for hiring the long-term unemployed produced 11 standees.
From the Substantively Underwhelmed:
The President’s Speech Impediment ( Bill McGurn/WSJ)
In music there’s a saying about a performance that was “too small for the house.” That’s becoming true of the president. There was a day when Mr. Obama’s taste for the marvelous—a campaign address in Berlin, the faux presidential seal, the Greek columns that surrounded him during his speech accepting the Democratic nomination—all seemed to herald something exciting and historic.
Even inside the Beltway, however, substance ultimately tells. Three years into his presidency, the grander the stage the smaller Mr. Obama comes across.
How can any speech move a country to action, when people no longer believe the promises or are even willing to listen to the speaker? How can a President lead the country in the right direction, when the people no longer agree with his policies and his actions?
How can the Democratic party elites expect the American voters to turn back to a President they no longer trust as the lone beacon for the left — when said beacon has already proven itself to be a sure-fire way to run aground?
It is far too late for Obama to turn our ship of state around. The tidal wave for change is already in motion.
The Democratic party owes the American people a real choice for America’s president in 2012!
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