Why Is Obama Still Likable?

by Bruce Thornton

Frontpage Magazine

The Democrats’ convention was the public coming-out bash for the party whose political clock stopped in 1972. Every speaker and speech celebrated the musty left-wing ideology and smug arrogance of those who idolize big government because it gives them the power to tell everybody else what to do and how to live — exactly what most Americans say they don’t like and don’t want. Then why are Obama’s poll numbers still so high?

The Dems’ whole production was an in-your-face spectacle of cobwebbed radical chic, spurious “diversity,” and Nurse Ratched’s totalitarian iron fist wrapped in a therapeutic velvet glove. Speech after speech peddled blatant lies, including Bill Clinton’s folksy, mendacious repudiation of every policy and principle that made his own presidency a success until it went up in intern-scented cigar smoke. God and Jerusalem were booed, and a rabbi Eastwooded thousands of empty chairs with a benediction that was careful not to mention God. In the midst of economic disaster, the heads of abortion lobbies like NARAL and Planned Parenthood, and federal functionaries like abortion fundamentalist Kathleen Sebelius, were given ample time to rant and rave about protecting a “woman’s right” to kill the unborn without any limitations. And of course, plagiarist Joe Biden blustered his way through a whole catalogue of lies, claiming Obama “saved the auto industry” when in fact what he saved was the Auto Workers Union, and pronouncing “America has turned a corner!” almost to the day that the national debt hit $16 trillion and the latest jobs report showed paltry job growth and worsening unemployment.

Such a public show of leftist arrogance, coming on the heels of 4 years of incompetence, monstrous deficits, billions of dollars squandered on pork for political clients and cronies, and scorched-earth partisan attacks, should spell doom for Obama and the Democrats. After all, polls reveal that 41% of Americans identify themselves as conservative, while only 23% choose liberal. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 66% of likely voters believe the government has too much power. In another poll, 51% of Americans believe the government is more a threat to individual rights rather than a protector of them. In still another poll, 54% of Americans wanted government “to get out of the way” rather than “lend a hand,” the choice of only 35%. As Dick Morris put it, “It was odd to watch a president commit political suicide by so brazen and overt an embrace of the 35% and a repudiation of the 54%.”

So we should be expecting a landslide somewhere between Nixon’s 23-point drubbing of George McGovern and Reagan’s 10-point whipping of Jimmy Carter, two other big-government progressive Democrats who believed that the limited government, individual rights, and personal freedom bestowed by the Constitution weren’t as important as creating the brave new world of absolute equality and “social justice.” And yet, Obama and Romney are tied in the polls. That per se is not unusual. In June of 1980, Carter led Reagan 39% to 32%, and Carter was still leading in early September. Much can happen between now and November. Just ask John McCain, who was leading Obama by 5 points in early September, only to have the economy implode later that month. What is more mystifying is Obama’s high personal approval numbers, which were up to 54% immediately after his tedious, vacuous convention speech. This number partly reflects something even more curious: his consistently high “likability” numbers, also at 54% according to Gallup. Only 31% find Mitt Romney likable.

The whole notion of “likability” is dubious on its face. What really is being measured is not the actual personality or character of Obama, but the perceptions of an ever-changing image, which is what most of us encounter. Thus subjectivity and duplicity are built into “likability,” particularly when lapdog media relentlessly accentuate and fabricate the positive, and ignore or cover up the negative, as they have done with Obama.

Even so, based on the image of Obama that comes across in his television appearances and statements, it’s hard to see what anyone can find so likable about him. Yes, he has a nice family, and seems to be a good father and husband, but so what? What has that to do with being President? And anyway, no one would label serial philanderer Bill Clinton a good family man, yet his likability numbers are still high.

Unlike Clinton, however, who seems sincerely to be an affable good-ol’-boy who obviously likes people, Obama comes across as quite different. What the media and even some conservatives laughably call his “cool” is actually an arrogant disdain for other people, particularly those who refuse to worship at his shrine. His narcissism is monumental, as when last month he told a group of NBA players, “It’s very rare that I come to an event where I’m like the fifth- or sixth-most interesting person.” This self-regard is made even more distasteful by the gap between it and his obvious incompetence daily revealed in everything from verbal gaffes to ignorance of basic economics, not to mention his utter failure to turn the economy around. He has arrogant mannerisms, such as lifting his chin when he lectures, his addiction to the first-person pronoun, and his verbal tics like “Let me be perfectly clear,” as though he were speaking to incompetent underlings rather than the citizens he supposedly serves. His claims to be “post-racial” have been belied by his incessant dealing of the race card to deflect criticism, as when he called his grandmother a “typical white person” for fearing the statistically factual probability of being the victim of a black criminal.

His nice-guy persona is also belied by his political minions’ vicious ad hominem attacks on Romney and the Republicans, and by his fondness for using scorched-earth tactics against his political enemies. Witness the coarse, unnecessary attack on the Catholic Church over the contraception mandate, or his last minute demand for another $400 billion of tax increases in his negotiations with John Boehner over raising the debt ceiling last year. And let’s not forget his juvenile penchant for blaming others for his own mistakes, particularly his ungracious treatment of his predecessor, made all the more glaring by George Bush’s classy restraint. Finally, there are the numerous unsavory details from his past, such as palling around with terrorist Bill Ayers, getting his political opponents’ sealed divorces record unsealed, spending 20 years in racist Reverend Wright’s church, and profiting from his association with convicted real estate operator Tony Rezko. What’s so “likable” about all that?

The obvious answer, as Rush Limbaugh has argued, is the “Bradley Effect.” In 1982, Los Angeles’s black mayor Tom Bradley had a significant lead over George Deukmejian in the race for California governor, but ended up losing. Some argued that voters lied to pollsters about their support for Bradley because they feared being seen as racist or prejudiced, thus creating the discrepancy between pre-election polls and the final result. Other elections that seemed to reflect this phenomenon were the 1989 New York mayor’s race between Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins, and the 1989 Virginia governor’s race between Douglas Wilder and Marshall Coleman. Dinkins and Wilder both won their elections, but by margins much narrower than predicted by pre-election polls.

If the “Bradley Effect” is at work in the polls measuring Obama’s likability, then the dysfunction of America’s race relations is even worse than we thought. Obama has governed not as a centrist like Clinton or even a conventional liberal like Bradley or Wilder, but as a doctrinaire progressive who is way out of touch with the center-right American political majority. Nor does his arrogant public personality soften the extremism of his politics. If a significant number of Americans are telling pollsters that they find someone so out of touch with their political beliefs “likable,” just because they’re afraid of appearing “racist” by criticizing a black man, then the race card remains a powerful trump. Whether it’s powerful enough to return a manifest failure to the White House remains to be seen.

©2012 Bruce S. Thornton

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