Where Intelligence Meets News Analysis.

Obama and the Demons of the Midterm

Yes, it was the biggest party turnover in the House in over half a century.

But for some strange and mystical reason, the sky refuses to fall, despite vicious attempts by panicky Democrats and disillusioned Republicans to pull it down.

In confronting the demons he now faces as a result of the “shellacking” in November, Mr. Obama in his 60 Minutes interview was analytical and introspective – learning this much: Leadership isn’t just legislation.

Even then, liberals like Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson couldn’t wait to pounce on the president.  “Obama was … uninspired and uninspiring,” he wrote in his weekday column.  According to Mr. Robinson, the president’s aura was just not confrontational enough for his liking.

And equally, if not more perplexing, has been Republicans’ reading of the midterm elections through their sacred text.  Listening to Speaker-to-be John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Obama and his Agenda were all that were on the ballots this November and nothing else remotely comes close.  This, even, has exit poll data show Obama has an almost 20 percent favorability rating than the Congress that went up for election; with 73% of voters disapproving of Congress while only 54% disapproving of the job the president is doing.

This midterm wasn’t about one party being the less scary character in a horror show, some pre-election polls even suggested Republicans had less favorability rating than Democrats.

But in an economy languid under the weight of a struggling population, jobs were foremost on voters’ minds, and the numbers prove it – 62 percent of voters prioritized “Jobs” as their top concern.

It is therefore no blasphemy to posit that a frustrated, anxious, and seething electorate exercising its constitutional right didn’t really have rationality up there as a primal concern.  And, this is in no way an indictment on the intelligence or rationality of the American voter, rather, a conscientious admission of the fact that rationality, for any person, seldom has the winning voice in moments of intense and palpable anger.

For how else do we explain this: Voters, when asked who was responsible for their troubles (the economy, that is), blamed Wall Street, George W. Bush, with Mr. Obama a distant third.  But still, overwhelmingly, chose to return to the failed economic policies of the Bush years by handing the House back to Republicans.  Generalized anger with the party before, and the party at hand, is the common denominator here.

Mr. Obama must now combat demons on his left and his right.  He delivered the biggest liberal item in forever—Healthcare reform—despite two of his top dogs in the fight, former Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Harry Reid, believing he should scale down the effort.  Still, liberals crucify him for the lack of a public option.

On the right, Republicans have made repeal of Healthcare reform their singular destiny, despite exit poll data showing half of Americans are for the reform.

The stock market hovered at a level not seen since before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008; best steady job growth in the private sector in months—things are gradually progressing out of the ditch. But as Mr. Obama now realizes, in leadership, communication is just as important as policy.

Dr. King, jr., shrewdly said it best: “A leader must not be a seeker of consensus, but a molder of consensus.”  And Mr. Obama will soon find out, in times like this, self-doubt might just be the greatest demon of all.  For better or for worse, he is center-left, and he must leave posterity his sole judge.

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