Obama Losing Rich Liberals

Richard Cohen reports that people like Richard Cohen have lost their enthusiasm for Barack Obama.

Richard Cohen reports that people like Richard Cohen have lost their enthusiasm for Barack Obama. Among those people: Richard Cohen.

Barack Obama has lost the Hamptons.

That sentence is a fat target for ridicule, I know, since the Hamptons are often reviled as the playground of the ridiculously rich and the promiscuously silly — hardly the working-class Democratic base. As is usually the case, there’s some truth to the stereotype, but enough exceptions to that rule to make the White House pay attention. 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.

[…]

In general, Obama was faulted for lacking political skills. I have long held this view, citing just recently his refusal to take advantage of the Republican leadership’s desire to nickel-and-dime disaster aid and instead give them the gift of scheduling his jobs speech on the night of the GOP debate. Obama held out for an hour or two and then ordered a retreat — an epochal moment in weakness, confusion and brain-dead politics. From his grave, Lyndon Johnson wept.

I grant you that the Hamptons are not America, and I grant you further that some of these people will scurry back to the Democratic fold when they have to choose between Obama and, say, Rick Perry. (Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney is a different matter.) In the meantime, though, these opinion leaders, these political activists, these people with influence and, yes, money, have bailed on Obama — not just some of them, not just a few of them, but all of them. The early returns are in: Obama has lost the Hamptons.

While the comparisons with Jimmy Carter have been made so often that they’re sort of a conventional wisdom, the better analogy is George H.W. Bush. Carter had been a genuinely bad president and became a laughingstock. That’s not Obama. No, he’s more like Bush: a blandly effective leader who remains widely liked but has disappointed his elite base by lack of a vigorous agenda and too much willingness to compromise.

My sense is that this is echoed at the mass level. Poll after poll shows a disconnect between Obama’s job performance and personal approval. The most recent example I could find, a May Politico/GWU battleground poll, found 44% disapproval of the job he’s doing as president (compared to 52% approval) but 72% approval of him as a person. A March Gallup poll found that only 36% think Obama “has a clear plan for solving the country’s problems” but 61% though he was “honest and trustworthy” and 57% thought he “understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives.”

Unlike Carter, Obama almost certainly won’t face a legitimate primary challenge. One can’t imagine an Al Gore or Hillary Clinton running against him this cycle. Indeed, while it’s not completely inconceivable, he probably won’t even have to deal, as Bush did, with a Pat Buchanan analogue running a nuisance protest campaign that further alienates the base.

People who are hard core Democrats–including most of Cohen’s friends who summer in the Hamptons–will support Obama even against a moderate Republican. But they may not be very enthusiastic in donating money and time.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. TJM says:

    Cohen’s story doesn’t add up. He said one of the people was a rich hedge-fund guy. Those guys don’t vote Democrat. They vote Republican because the Republicans give them favorable tax treatment. Right?

  2. Jay Tea says:

    @TJM: “Rich hedge-fund” people like, say, Chelsea Clinton?

    J.

  3. JKB says:

    Now, let me get this straight. This was the Hamptons hard-core Democrats? Not the Hollywood hard-core Democrats, Silicon Valley hard-core Democrats, Nebraska hard-core Democrats, or the Martha Vineyard hard-core Democrats?

    Where were the hard-core Republican fat cats? Trying to keep their small businesses above water in the stormy seas of Obama regulation?

  4. just me says:

    I think many in the Obama base are dissatisfied with Obama. I don’t think that translates into votes for the GOP candidate or really anyone else.

    My guess is that the 2012 election will be more about holding your nose while voting and I think this very well may be the case for both parties.

  5. Tom Mathers says:

    “a blandly effective leader who remains widely liked”

    I love a good laugh in the morning. Thank you.

  6. Rick Almeida says:

    @just me:

    My guess is that the 2012 election will be more about holding your nose while voting and I think this very well may be the case for both parties.

    I believe this to be the rule, not the exception.

  7. Kylopod says:

    >that people like Richard Cohen have lost their enthusiasm for Barack Obama

    Yeah, it’s a real problem for Obama that a man who wrote a column in July 2008 titled “Barack Obama can talk, but his record is tissue-thin” would have lost his enthusiasm for Barack Obama. What is the world coming to?

  8. Sam says:

    Rich liberals? Listening to the left and their mouthpieces at MSNBC,CNN, etc, one would believe that all the rich are conservatives and greedy robber barons!

  9. Sam says:

    @just me:

    A total turnout of under a hundred million voters is possible?

  10. JKB says:

    @Sam:

    Rich liberals? Listening to the left and their mouthpieces at MSNBC,CNN, etc, one would believe that all the rich are conservatives and greedy robber barons!

    Yes, they party like it’s 1911.

    That’s Progressives for you. Unionism, electric cars, passenger trains, prohibitions, urban transit, rising socialism.

  11. ponce says:

    Meanwhile, back in the real world::

    Obama Fundraising For 2012 Campaign, DNC Breaks Record

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/13/obama-fundraising-2012-dnc_n_896813.html

  12. Jay Tea says:

    @ponce: How much of that was raised illegally, from overseas, or did they put back in the security measures to prevent it? Those would be the ones that they deliberately chose to disable back in 2008?

    Either way, it seems Obama’s well on his way to buying himself a second term.

    J.

  13. Sam says:

    Obama said he would raise a BILLION bucks. Do the math to see what that would take daily to reach.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    From actual reporting done by actual reporters at McClatchy. (Also known as the only major media organization that got Iraq right.)

    WASHINGTON — Politicians and business groups often blame excessive regulation and fear of higher taxes for tepid hiring in the economy. However, little evidence of that emerged when McClatchy canvassed a random sample of small business owners across the nation.

    “Government regulations are not ‘choking’ our business, the hospitality business,” Bernard Wolfson, the president of Hospitality Operations in Miami, told The Miami Herald. “In order to do business in today’s environment, government regulations are necessary and we must deal with them. The health and safety of our guests depend on regulations. It is the government regulations that help keep things in order.”

    Followed by the usual US Chamber of commerce propaganda you can find at the link. Then:

    McClatchy reached out to owners of small businesses, many of them mom-and-pop operations, to find out whether they indeed were being choked by regulation, whether uncertainty over taxes affected their hiring plans and whether the health care overhaul was helping or hurting their business.

    Their response was surprising.

    None of the business owners complained about regulation in their particular industries, and most seemed to welcome it. Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.

  15. tyndon clusters says:

    Adlai Stevenson, when running in 1956, heard a supporter shout out, “Adlai, all thinking persons will vote for you”. To which he replied, “thats not enough, I need a majority.”

    Seriously, lets say Obama loses and the Republican morons take the presidency, can America survive?

    They will further cut government regulations and give big tax cuts to the rich…and this time, there won’t be a trillion dollar surplus to squander or a pristine credit rating to help through the crises.

    I never in my life felt that we could become Britain circa 1947, but if the idiots on the right get control, we really are in for a big fall.

    And all you freaks on here who call Obama a socialist, take your head out of your rectum, take a deep breath and see what a great big beautiful world there still is even thought your worst dark nightmare is in charge.

  16. Pete says:

    @tyndon clusters: Cry me a river!!

  17. anjin-san says:

    Trying to keep their small businesses above water in the stormy seas of Obama regulation?

    Ahhh, for the last days of the Bush administration, when the economy was strong, small businesses were thriving and life was good.

  18. anjin-san says:

    Some pointed to the lack of regulation in mortgage lending as a principal cause of the financial crisis that brought about the Great Recession of 2007-09 and its grim aftermath.

    One of the reasons Texas escaped the worst of the housing crisis is a heavily regulated banking industry…