Barack Obama: The Populist Professor?Democrats, Other, Politics, Republicans — By Rachel Motte on January 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm
Last night’s State of the Union address changed nothing, aside from Chris Matthews’ eyesight, which I trust has returned to normal. President Obama is still committed to the same unpopular policies that have left him with a dropping approval rating, and he “won’t quit”.
Neither will Republicans, despite—or perhaps because of—the verbal reprimand they received last night:
“Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.”
Despite his pledge to “show the American people we can do it together”, the President has firmly refused to rethink the fundamentally divisive policies Republicans have voted against. In a way, there’s nothing wrong with that. President Obama is consistently a leftist, through and through. He absolutely believes what he preaches, and his apparent refusal to compromise on his core beliefs should come as no surprise—it should, however, serve as a warning to Republicans, whose recent victory in Massachusetts has left some emboldened and others in danger of becoming over-confident.
In light of that, it’s odd that Obama chose to compare himself with President Reagan. He’s certainly no Reagan politically—nor should he claim to be, if he wants his actions to be consistent with his beliefs. As time has worn on and the now-famous teleprompter has been a player in so many political dramas this year, we’ve learned that he’s not even much like Reagan rhetorically. It made sense for a candidate Obama to try to link his name with that of Reagan, but as a sitting President who is thoroughly committed to the very leftist ideals Reagan eschewed, it’s a little strange.
Even more strange were Obama’s populist appeals spoken in his habitually professorial tone. Believe it or not, it’s hard to be intelligent in America—especially if you are a politician. No one wants to be stupid, but neither do you want to come across as too smart—at least not if you want people to like you. Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar, but fortunately for him he was also very good at acting like “one of the guys”. This let him make full use of his intelligence without appearing stuffy or abnormal in ways that would have hurt his political career.
President Obama, on the other hand, is decidedly academic in both tone and demeanor. While watching last night’s speech, Chris Matthews says he forgot our President was black. I nearly forgot he wasn’t one of the visiting lecturers who used to speak for Capitol Hill interns on the house floor when Congress was out of session.
This academic approach obviously works for the younger generations, or at least it did during the election; 66 percent of the 29 and under crowd voted for Obama. Will his populist appeals also work, or will his habitual aura of superior intelligence turn more and more voters off as they become accustomed to his habits?
Only time—and the next election results—will tell. Meanwhile, Republicans can rest assured that they can expect more of the same liberal policies they’ve been fighting, without let-up and without compromise. And unless the GOP manages to utterly take over the Congress in the next election cycle, Chris Matthews can expect to need glasses. ‘