Hillary and Barack: Can this relationship be saved?

The political marriage of convenience between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is fraying seriously in the face of the changed political dynamic in the last few weeks. Important segments of the voting public that once supported Obama are moving away from him.

The recent extended Fourth of July weekend may have marked a political watershed. For over a week the media was full of stories about Sarah Palin's decision to announce her own independence from the constrictions of trying to be a spokesperson for conservative causes on a national level while governing remote Alaska.  Now it has became apparent through various polls that American voters also began to reevaluate the Obama presidency around that time. 

Since several components of the Democrats' coalition are held together in the nature of marriages of political convenience, this may also have long term implications.

Pundits talk obsessively about the first hundred days of a presidency but voters are more likely to reassess events in reference to important dates on the calendar. We say to ourselves, I'll wait until Easter to decide, or I'll try again after Labor Day. Sometimes the very meaning of the day helps force the issue. A lot of relationships end before Valentine's Day when one party realizes they are just going through the motions. Others end soon afterward when someone realizes their affections were not fully reciprocated.  Either way, the modern merchandising hype built up around the day almost forces people to assess if their current relationship has a future.  On the other hand, the decision to get married is often made during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas when couple are also making plans that revolve around their extended families. Some twenty percent of engagement rings sold are sold in the month of December.

The Fourth of July symbolizes not only this nation's independence, it marks the midpoint of the year. Thus it often factors into people's decision making process. This year, it seems to be mark the point when  a significant number of voters decided that Obama's grace period was over and it was time to expect results from the unprecedented spending,  Indeed, the daily Rasmussen tracking poll, which uses a three day average, shows a definite shift in the opinion of likely voters starting around the summer solstice and ending when Rasmussen suspended polling for the three day holiday weekend.  Before then, the so called "passion index", the net of those who strongly approve versus those who strongly disapprove had been fluctuating between +3 and +6 with the occasional outlier since April.  After July 8 it once again appears stable, but at -6 to -8.  

I suspect that something else of significance also happened around the Independence Day milepost.  While Rasmussen reports that 58% of Democrats still Strongly Approve of the President, the willingness to display this approval seems much diminished of late.  Many who commentate on conservative websites have noted that last year's bumper stickers seem to be melting away. 

As both an avid gardener and a gourmet cook accustomed to dining on ethnic fare who went John Galt in 2003, I visit a wide range of markets on my regular trips into the city to shop.  Of late I've noticed that Obama bumper stickers are still much in evidence in the parking lots of upscale area retailers such as Earth Fare and BB Barnes ,  They are still seen at middle market Ingles, especially in more upscale neighborhoods. They have become rarer than they were just last month, however, at the Wal-Mart Supercenter and the decidedly down market GO, a local chain selling overstock items where the budget conscious hope to find Gwaltney boloney for $1/lb.  Furthermore, it is a telling sign of the mood of consumers that for the past several months, GO has been unusually busy.  For the first time ever, I had to search for a parking space in their lot earlier this week. 

The distribution pattern of Obama bumper stickers eight months after the election is hardly surprising. For all their talk about being for the working class, from the beginning Obama's most die hard local supporters were not the type to respond to the slogan Save Money. Live better. The Obama bumper sticker is as much a symbol of their superior taste as a fondness for grass fed Australian beef and their willingness to pay $3/lb for a whole chicken fed a vegetarian only diet and transported to market by trucks that use only bio-diesel   White blue collar voters, on the other hand, were among the slowest Democrat block to warm to Obama. As the group being hit hardest by the recession, it makes sense that they may also be the first to lose faith in Obama's economic baloney.  I have a neighbor who recalls his mama, a Blue Dog Democrat, making cornmeal mush fried in bacon drippings for dinner several times a week during the hard times of his youth in the 1970s. He was incredulous when I told him that the customers at Earth Fare will pay $3 for a plastic tube of polenta -- which is nothing more than a few cents of cooked corn meal mush given a fancy Italian name.  The social chasm between these two voting blocks is extremely wide.

I suspect that something in addition to the disaffection of working class Democrats may also be at work. On one recent trip into the liberal enclave of Asheville, NC I noticed several cars sporting Hillary bumper stickers.  Given the diminished number of Obama stickers, they really stood out. Maybe it was just an anomaly, an improbable conjunction of my route with that of a handful of dead enders from last Spring's bitterly fought primaries. But I suspect the PUMAs are getting ready to roar once again.  

I base this on the many women who strongly backed Hillary early in the primary cycle and only switched to Obama when it became apparent that he had won the nomination.  White liberal guilt contributed to their desire to see Obama win the general election, but he clearly hadn't been their first choice.  Not only has that guilt now been expiated, the Obama administration seems to be playing out an old familiar script in the lives of professional women of a certain age.

Last summer, many professional women in the over 50 age bracket who supported Hillary saw Obama as the hot shot with little more than a flashy resume. He seemed to epitomize the type of outsider executive recruiters would bring in when the boss retired or died, during the era before women were given the opportunity to be top executives. Often everyone at lower levels in an organization knew the retiring male executive's female assistant had been doing all the work for the last five years, but it didn't matter.  Only men were ever considered for the high level jobs.

It now has been a year since Hillary was defeated and half a year since her usurper stepped triumphantly into the Oval Office.  While Obama was admired as a great orator, his lack of ability to actually get things done is more apparent by the day.  Even though these women are loyal Democrats, ingrained gender politics makes it hard for them to resist the I told you so attitude.

There is added emotional resonance among such women because, like the executive assistant of old who was never considered for her boss's job, Hillary loyally supported Obama in the general election and agreed to serve in his cabinet.  In their eyes she has been doubly victimized by a condescending whippersnapper who first gave her the finger on the campaign trail only to now fall on his face in the executive suite.

With the hints already out there that all is not well between the Clintons and Obama, this bears watching.  The Clintons' strength has always been among those Democrat groups that Obama was slow to win over and with whom his appeal may already be weakening. After voters soundly rejected the liberalism of Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton pushed the Democratic Party towards the center for eight years. It has now shifted even further left than Dukakis and many voters don't seem to like the idea much. Specific items on Obama's agenda do poorly when separately polled. Hundreds of thousands of those not among the political class have taken the unusual step of participating in both both large scale general demonstrations and small scale picketing of the local office of Senators and Representatives. Perhaps because of them, Democrats in Congress have even started to notice that the polls showing that Obama is still personally popular are not the whole story.  Some people might be thinking that events are shaping up for a different Clinton to pull the party back toward the political middle. 

The Clinton marriage survived Bill's many infidelities because presumably they each were getting something valuable out of the union.  It will be interesting to see if Hillary's political union with Barack  will survive a prolonged decline in Obama's popularity.  
The political marriage of convenience between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is fraying seriously in the face of the changed political dynamic in the last few weeks. Important segments of the voting public that once supported Obama are moving away from him.

The recent extended Fourth of July weekend may have marked a political watershed. For over a week the media was full of stories about Sarah Palin's decision to announce her own independence from the constrictions of trying to be a spokesperson for conservative causes on a national level while governing remote Alaska.  Now it has became apparent through various polls that American voters also began to reevaluate the Obama presidency around that time. 

Since several components of the Democrats' coalition are held together in the nature of marriages of political convenience, this may also have long term implications.

Pundits talk obsessively about the first hundred days of a presidency but voters are more likely to reassess events in reference to important dates on the calendar. We say to ourselves, I'll wait until Easter to decide, or I'll try again after Labor Day. Sometimes the very meaning of the day helps force the issue. A lot of relationships end before Valentine's Day when one party realizes they are just going through the motions. Others end soon afterward when someone realizes their affections were not fully reciprocated.  Either way, the modern merchandising hype built up around the day almost forces people to assess if their current relationship has a future.  On the other hand, the decision to get married is often made during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas when couple are also making plans that revolve around their extended families. Some twenty percent of engagement rings sold are sold in the month of December.

The Fourth of July symbolizes not only this nation's independence, it marks the midpoint of the year. Thus it often factors into people's decision making process. This year, it seems to be mark the point when  a significant number of voters decided that Obama's grace period was over and it was time to expect results from the unprecedented spending,  Indeed, the daily Rasmussen tracking poll, which uses a three day average, shows a definite shift in the opinion of likely voters starting around the summer solstice and ending when Rasmussen suspended polling for the three day holiday weekend.  Before then, the so called "passion index", the net of those who strongly approve versus those who strongly disapprove had been fluctuating between +3 and +6 with the occasional outlier since April.  After July 8 it once again appears stable, but at -6 to -8.  

I suspect that something else of significance also happened around the Independence Day milepost.  While Rasmussen reports that 58% of Democrats still Strongly Approve of the President, the willingness to display this approval seems much diminished of late.  Many who commentate on conservative websites have noted that last year's bumper stickers seem to be melting away. 

As both an avid gardener and a gourmet cook accustomed to dining on ethnic fare who went John Galt in 2003, I visit a wide range of markets on my regular trips into the city to shop.  Of late I've noticed that Obama bumper stickers are still much in evidence in the parking lots of upscale area retailers such as Earth Fare and BB Barnes ,  They are still seen at middle market Ingles, especially in more upscale neighborhoods. They have become rarer than they were just last month, however, at the Wal-Mart Supercenter and the decidedly down market GO, a local chain selling overstock items where the budget conscious hope to find Gwaltney boloney for $1/lb.  Furthermore, it is a telling sign of the mood of consumers that for the past several months, GO has been unusually busy.  For the first time ever, I had to search for a parking space in their lot earlier this week. 

The distribution pattern of Obama bumper stickers eight months after the election is hardly surprising. For all their talk about being for the working class, from the beginning Obama's most die hard local supporters were not the type to respond to the slogan Save Money. Live better. The Obama bumper sticker is as much a symbol of their superior taste as a fondness for grass fed Australian beef and their willingness to pay $3/lb for a whole chicken fed a vegetarian only diet and transported to market by trucks that use only bio-diesel   White blue collar voters, on the other hand, were among the slowest Democrat block to warm to Obama. As the group being hit hardest by the recession, it makes sense that they may also be the first to lose faith in Obama's economic baloney.  I have a neighbor who recalls his mama, a Blue Dog Democrat, making cornmeal mush fried in bacon drippings for dinner several times a week during the hard times of his youth in the 1970s. He was incredulous when I told him that the customers at Earth Fare will pay $3 for a plastic tube of polenta -- which is nothing more than a few cents of cooked corn meal mush given a fancy Italian name.  The social chasm between these two voting blocks is extremely wide.

I suspect that something in addition to the disaffection of working class Democrats may also be at work. On one recent trip into the liberal enclave of Asheville, NC I noticed several cars sporting Hillary bumper stickers.  Given the diminished number of Obama stickers, they really stood out. Maybe it was just an anomaly, an improbable conjunction of my route with that of a handful of dead enders from last Spring's bitterly fought primaries. But I suspect the PUMAs are getting ready to roar once again.  

I base this on the many women who strongly backed Hillary early in the primary cycle and only switched to Obama when it became apparent that he had won the nomination.  White liberal guilt contributed to their desire to see Obama win the general election, but he clearly hadn't been their first choice.  Not only has that guilt now been expiated, the Obama administration seems to be playing out an old familiar script in the lives of professional women of a certain age.

Last summer, many professional women in the over 50 age bracket who supported Hillary saw Obama as the hot shot with little more than a flashy resume. He seemed to epitomize the type of outsider executive recruiters would bring in when the boss retired or died, during the era before women were given the opportunity to be top executives. Often everyone at lower levels in an organization knew the retiring male executive's female assistant had been doing all the work for the last five years, but it didn't matter.  Only men were ever considered for the high level jobs.

It now has been a year since Hillary was defeated and half a year since her usurper stepped triumphantly into the Oval Office.  While Obama was admired as a great orator, his lack of ability to actually get things done is more apparent by the day.  Even though these women are loyal Democrats, ingrained gender politics makes it hard for them to resist the I told you so attitude.

There is added emotional resonance among such women because, like the executive assistant of old who was never considered for her boss's job, Hillary loyally supported Obama in the general election and agreed to serve in his cabinet.  In their eyes she has been doubly victimized by a condescending whippersnapper who first gave her the finger on the campaign trail only to now fall on his face in the executive suite.

With the hints already out there that all is not well between the Clintons and Obama, this bears watching.  The Clintons' strength has always been among those Democrat groups that Obama was slow to win over and with whom his appeal may already be weakening. After voters soundly rejected the liberalism of Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton pushed the Democratic Party towards the center for eight years. It has now shifted even further left than Dukakis and many voters don't seem to like the idea much. Specific items on Obama's agenda do poorly when separately polled. Hundreds of thousands of those not among the political class have taken the unusual step of participating in both both large scale general demonstrations and small scale picketing of the local office of Senators and Representatives. Perhaps because of them, Democrats in Congress have even started to notice that the polls showing that Obama is still personally popular are not the whole story.  Some people might be thinking that events are shaping up for a different Clinton to pull the party back toward the political middle. 

The Clinton marriage survived Bill's many infidelities because presumably they each were getting something valuable out of the union.  It will be interesting to see if Hillary's political union with Barack  will survive a prolonged decline in Obama's popularity.