(Article first published as Will Obama Step Aside or be Pushed? on Blogcritics.) The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece a few days ago about the need for Obama to step aside. For the good of the country, he must give another Democrat a chance at the White House next year. The most surprising thing about the article is that it wasn’t written by a hardline right-winger. Or even a considered Independent. Two former Democrat pollsters, one for Jimmy Carter and the other for Bill Clinton, are the authors. They appeal to Obama to climb the moral high ground like Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson before him and step down.
In a nutshell, these writers lay the blame for today’s political gridlock in the Capitol at Obama’s feet. Stalemate naturally follows in the wake of vitriolic posturing. They also believe that the President cannot win re-election with a constructive campaign because of his performance failures. His road to victory, if there is one, runs straight over a scorched earth. But, that strategy, already adopted by the President’s handlers, will only widen the political divide worsening dire issues facing the country. The authors’ solution is to run Hillary Clinton, the savior, not only of the Democrat Party, but also of the country.
It’s an interesting article, made more so by the political affiliation of it’s authors. But, the most interesting thing about it is the comparison, however brief, of Obama to the 1952 version of Harry Truman. There are dozens of articles on the Internet likening Obama to Truman in 1948. Some merely offer the possibility. Others predict a Truman-esque victory for Obama. There are also articles suggesting that Obama is the second coming of Jimmy Carter in 1980 or Gerald Ford in 1976.
But, Truman in 1952 is becoming a more likely scenario. In 1957, five years after he left the Oval Office, Truman claimed that he stepped down in the best interests of the country. He supposedly made the decision in 1949 based on his concern that advancing age would prevent him from governing effectively through 1956.
A much more plausible explanation is that Truman, deeply disliked, accepted the fact that 1948 Redux was not in the cards. He suffered a humiliating defeat in the first primary of 1952 at the hands of a freshman Senator. Days later he withdrew his name from consideration. He did, however, successfully deny his primary opponent the Democrat nomination at a brokered convention later that year.
Will 2012 play out for Obama like 1952 did for Truman? There are similarities. For Truman, the Korean Conflict was very unpopular in a war-weary America and he couldn’t bring it to an end. His administration was riddled with charges of corruption and cronyism. Even the post-WWII economic boom could not quiet concerns about the Federal deficit, miniscule by today’s standards. In the end, his past successes forgotten, voters rejected the man from Missouri.
Obama finds himself in worse circumstances than did Truman. America today is in protracted military conflicts in two countries. The economy is in the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression. Financial collapse hangs over irresponsible spending like Damocles’ sword. The administration is facing corruption and incompetence charges in the ongoing Solyndra and Fast and Furious fiascos. While Truman, at least, took responsibility, Obama works very hard to deny it. Years of Obama’s persistent blame antics inevitably wear very thin.
So, our President’s approval rating, like Truman’s before him, is dismal. Even Obama admits that we’re no better off now than when he became president. Not surprisingly, if the polls were open today, the Elephant would win.
But, are elections that occurred sixty years ago meaningful in predicting the course of the 2012 contest? Is there a dissenter among Democrats who will challenge Obama in the primaries? Are today’s voters enough like those in 1952 who preferred a maverick entry in an early primary? More to the point, are enough voters today like American adults in 1952? Those folks were battle-hardened and self-reliant. People these days are products of decades of entitlement indoctrination.
Then there’s the question of whether Obama can find the moral high ground with a map and a compass. Or, whether he’s so scorched the earth, it’s no longer discernable. If someone else is to be the Democrat standard bearer next year, it will take one very big push.
See you in the mirror.