2008 – 2010: From “Yes We Can” to “Shove It” in Two Short Years Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, October 28 2010
In sapphire-blue Rhode Island, whose 63% vote for Obama exceeded even the 62% in his home state of Illinois, a gubernatorial candidate this week angrily instructed Obama to “shove it.” Not the Republican candidate – the Democratic candidate.

How things have changed since election night 2008, just two short years ago.

From Chicago to Cairo, euphoric throngs and prostrate pundits worshiped Barack Obama as indomitable.  He stood, in the infamous words of Newsweek editor Evan Thomas, “above the country above… above the world, he’s sort of God.”  Imagine the disbelief and ridicule awaiting anyone then bold enough to predict the things we’re currently witnessing as Americans march toward voting booths next week. 

In sapphire-blue Rhode Island, whose 63% vote for Obama exceeded even the 62% in his home state of Illinois, a gubernatorial candidate this week angrily instructed Obama to “shove it.”  Not the Republican candidate – the Democratic candidate. 

In the Illinois race to fill the very Senate seat vacated by Obama when he became President, the Democratic candidate – and personal friend of Obama – trails the Republican candidate in all four major polls.  Remarkably, the Republican candidate for Illinois governor has not surrendered his average lead over his Democratic opponent since polling commenced in April. 

In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who attached himself to the aggressive Obama agenda and ushered so much of it into law, trails in most pre-election surveys.  Of course, this is the same Harry Reid who confidently labeled the Iraq campaign “lost” just as the troop surge was getting underway and winning it. 

It’s ironic that Reid, who after all represents Las Vegas, shows such a profound inability to predict winners more reliably.  Things are so bad that his own son Rory, running in that state’s gubernatorial race, doesn’t even advertise his surname in election banners. 

Over in the House of Representatives, powerful Wisconsin Congressman David Obey retired rather than face defeat against young gun Sean Duffy, who wasn’t yet born when Obey filled that seat in 1969.  Even Barney Frank is fighting for his political survival in a district Obama carried by 29%, and had to call in Bill Clinton for a campaign rally. 

All of this, of course, was presaged by Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown’s incredible election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. 

Things are no better for Obama personally. 

When he entered office 21 months ago, Obama’s approval rating dwarfed his disapproval rating by 56 percentage points.  Today, he’s five points underwater. 

Apologists will rationalize that mid-term elections are always brutal for sitting presidents, but that’s simply not true.  In 2002, Republicans gained seats in both the House and Senate despite economic difficulties and severe international turbulence. 

Accordingly, our current level of voter disgust and next week’s likely electoral earthquake weren’t inevitable.  Rather, they are primarily the consequence of Obama’s disastrous policy choices and rhetorical extremism. 

Obama as a candidate promised to scour the federal budget “line-by-line,” but instead brought us consecutive deficits of $1.4 trillion and $1.3 trillion.  He promised to open healthcare negotiations on C-Span, but instead conspired with Reid and Nancy Pelosi behind closed doors to forge a legislative monstrosity that is already adding to the budget deficit, driving private insurers out of the marketplace and increasing healthcare costs rather than reducing them as promised. 

Frank Caprio, the same Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate who told Obama to “shove it,” captured the essence of his presidency when he said that Obama “is treating us like an ATM machine.” 

Obama also centered his candidacy on a unique promise of bipartisanship, but cheaply boasted in his inaugural speech that “we have chosen hope over fear,” and has stooped so low as to attack his predecessor by name.  This week, Obama even employed the ugly metaphor of telling Republicans to “sit in back” of the car.  Candidate Obama encouraged American voters with promises of racial harmonization and less toxic rhetoric, but just this week suggested that Latinos as an ethnic group vote to “punish” those he labeled “enemies” with their votes: 

“If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, ‘we’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us,’ if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting this election, then I think it’s going to be harder, and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2.” 

Obama’s policy extremism, partisan antagonism and tawdry rhetoric have brought him from “Yes We Can” to “Shove It.”  On November 2, they will drag his party’s Congressional accomplices over the electoral cliff in a manner unimaginable on election night two short years ago.