He definitely got a bump after the Republican National Convention. And by “he,” I mean “President Obama.”
At the beginning of the Gathering of the Trumppalos in Cleveland, the president’s approval rating had sunk below 50 percent in Gallup’s daily tracking poll, an unusual occurrence this year, with only a +2 margin over his disapproval rating at 47 percent.
Two weeks later, the president is back at 54 percent, with a 11 percent margin, and probably wishes there could be alternating Republican and Democratic conventions for the rest of the year.
It’s hard to say what did more to improve President Obama’s image:
Was it the parade of D-level conservative talent in Cleveland followed by Donald Trump ranting for 76 minutes about how he “alone” can fix an America unrecognizable to those of us who realize that, under Obama, crime has gone down by about a fifth, the stock market has more than doubled, layoffs per capita are at an all-time low, and total employment is at an all-time high?
Or was it the parade of A-list Democrats in Philadelphia, along with various independents and members of the military, followed by President Obama himself arguing that America hasn’t fully recovered from the crises and wars that began under GOP rule, but that we’ve made huge strides to rebuild America by embracing the diversity that so threatens the rotting peach of a lunatic nominated by the other party?
Either way, Americans are more appreciative of the president than at any time during his tenure save the few months after his two victories in Electoral College landslides. And the fact that we’re in the middle of the longest sustained period of private-sector job growth in U.S. history is just one reason.
This president hasn’t been perfect. Hopes that he would reverse the drift of the deep security state have all but evaporated. But the spirit of those expectations has been borne out in the nuclear deal with Iran, the long overdue normalization of relations with Cuba, and the global agreement to take on climate change.
That’s why America’s image with most of our allies has improved drastically under this president.
Obama has done more to advance the fight against global warming and the rights of LGBTQ Americans than all other presidents combined — almost no other president (aside from Clinton) acknowledged that either existed.
But these achievements are all the more impressive given that his predecessor did everything possible to make both worse. And his Republican would-be successor would do the same — or worse, given the growing urgency of the climate crisis and utter inhumanity of threatening to reverse the steady progress toward equality.
Obamacare isn’t single-payer health care. But it has began the transformation of America’s health care system we so desperately need, given the fact we continually pay more for worse results than any country in the world.
And the results of these imperfect reforms have been spectacular, especially given the extraordinary resistance they’ve faced from Republicans: 20 million Americans have gained coverage, health costs are now predicted to be $2.6 trillion lower than they were before the ACA became law, and consumers are getting better coverage for less money.
Most important, the law has strengthened the social safety net by reimbursing hospitals for coverage they’re obligated by law to offer anyway.
Yet many Republicans widely regard Obamacare not just as something they hate because it has personally inconvenienced them, but as an abomination that is a greater failure than the Iraq War, Katrina, and Scott Baio’s singing career combined — which brings us to what the president likely regards as the greatest failure of his presidency.
He wanted to bring us together, yet we’ve become more and more polarized.
The division in America isn’t based on the two parties. It’s a continental divide connected by a mostly frozen sea. And we see that in the two nominees the parties are running for president, who are aren’t just hated by members of the other party, but despised by them, like mosquitos carrying Zika and audit letters from the IRS.
PPP Polling finds “74 percent of Trump voters think Clinton should be in prison, to only 12 percent who disagree. By a 66/22 margin they say Clinton is a bigger threat to the United States than Russia. And 33 percent think Clinton even has ties to Lucifer, to 36 percent who say they don’t think so, and 31 percent who are unsure either way.”
Is this Obama’s fault?
Did he start a conservative news channel 20 years ago right around the time the Republicans decided that they should impeach President Clinton over offenses similar to those or far worse than those committed by members of the Republican congressional leadership of the late 90s? Did he encourage that conservative news channel to help lie us into war? Did he tell them to give an open invitation to a reality TV clown whose only political qualification was that he was willing to ask the first black president for ID?
Could eight years of progress and soaring rhetoric fix that?
Probably not. Obama’s success has made them only more enraged, as rants about the unemployment rate, gas prices, the deficit, and Obamacare have been contradicted again and again by reality. The GOP base was left with nothing but white hot fire of their hatred for the man, the left, and the brown people they imagine have stolen their rightful legacy. So they nominated a birther.
And what did President Obama say to them on Wednesday night in Cleveland?
He didn’t attack them for empowering a man who has attacked his very identity. He appealed to their better angels.
He noted that what “we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican – and it sure wasn’t conservative.” And his argument against Trump wasn’t personal, it was about the purest American value there is: “We don’t look to be ruled.”
We look to be led. And for eight years, President Obama has led us and we are greater for it.