By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author and political analyst
WASHINGTON - President Obama should turn a deaf ear to the chatter about him not running again. He's heard plenty of that in the weeks since the Democrat's midterm election drubbing. Much of the chatter hasn't come from the usual, hostile GOP and Tea Party suspects. The stand down talk has come in a string of op-ed pieces, web and blog talk, speculation and guesswork, from some respected Democrat Party supporters and operatives. If Obama designates himself a lame duck president, supposedly the GOP will call off the attack dogs, embrace cooperation and bipartisanship with him, and this will help promote national unity, allow him to make real headway on attaining his foreign policy goals on the Afghanistan war, North Korean nukes, the Middle-East, shepherd through an economic recovery, and spare packs of Democratic incumbents from losing their jobs in another tidal wave against him in 2012. None of this makes any sense.
The GOP declared civil war on Obama not last month, or last year, but the instant the final vote declared him the presidential winner in 2008. The GOP did not launch its take no prisoner's war solely to drive him from office. The war would have been waged against Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat that won the presidency. The only thing different about Obama from them is he's African-American and that opened the racial floodgate to hector, harass, and pillory demean him. The GOP war is about regaining power, control, political dominance, protecting its corporate and financial interests, its strict construction definition and enforcement of the laws, and more broadly the imposing its philosophical view of how government should be run. The presidency is the grand prize that pulls the political, economic and philosophical threads on how government and power will be exercised together for the GOP.
Then there's this question. If Obama can perform the political miracle that will bring political peace and unity, help the economy and improve foreign policy, by not running then why couldn't he do it as president? The Obama one-term proponents give no real answer to this.
The other blurred crystal ball gazing foisted off as political reason for Obama to pack it in in 2012 is that America has plummeted into an era of scarcity, class gaping divisions between rich and poor, plunging living standards, military decline, and faces major challenges to its economic dominance from China, India, Brazil, Japan, and Western Europe. In this view America is going the way of the Roman and British Empires. This supposedly explains the anger and angst of the Tea Party at Obama. In short, he's the fall guy for America's sink. This is bunkum too.
The Tea Party's relentless rage and hounding of Obama is not fueled by insecurity over where the tomorrow's paycheck is coming from, whether America will get clocked in Afghanistan, what Brazil will or won't do in the financial markets, or that the government can't pay its bills because of massive hock to everyone. It's fueled by race and shrewd media and political manipulation. America has been in the era of economic uncertainty, foreign competition, and military shrinkage, for the past two decades. If America's domestic and foreign slide alone was a reason to tell a president not to run that president should have been W. Bush in 2004.
There were no loud cries, endless polls, and legions of pundits clucking to Bush to step down. And if he did, it would somehow reverse America's slide, or at least let him off the hook for it. But that's exactly what Obama is being told.
A little history is in order. He can't win. He's made a mess of the economy. His foreign policy initiatives have stalled. The inexperience that his opponents repeatedly warned would do him in once he got in the White House proved true. A Gallup poll backed up the rampant talk that the President should not run for re-election because of political failures and public disgust; nearly sixty percent of the respondents said that. The president a multitude said with absolute certainty was irreparably damaged political goods and shouldn't run for reelection, and if he did couldn't win is not named Obama. It was Ronald Reagan. The year was 1982. The economy was still mired in double digit unemployment and inflation, and his approval numbers were in the tank. But we know the rest. Reagan didn't listen to the pundits the critics, or heed the poll numbers. He won a smash reelection victory in 1984. Presidents from Truman to Clinton have all heard the dreaded three words, "one-term president" said about them after popularity plunges, legislative reversals, or midterm party losses.
Two years is an eternity in politics. A recovering economy a hard, and decisive breakthrough in the war on terrorism, or GOP internal self-destruction, could turn the tide in the White House's favor. One more note, Obama's popularity numbers at the same juncture of their presidency are higher than Truman, Reagan or Clinton's, they won reelection and so can he.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.