A month ago I wrote, “If liberal elites see Obama’s poll numbers going south, get ready for an all-hands-on-deck effort to separate Obama from liberalism; the former may lose but the the left cannot allow the latter to be repudiated. Now they are in full self-delusion during the post-convention bump, but when reality (and the jobs numbers) hit home, watch for the excuse storylines to creep in.” Then the occasion was the disappointment over his lackluster convention acceptance speech. But here we are a month later, and the left has collectively and loudly lost it in the aftermath of Debate-aggedon and the Great Poll Crash.
The more enamored liberals were of the president, the more acute is their disappointment and unhinged the reaction to his debate belly flop. Witness Chris Matthews’s meltdown.
He’s not alone. Andrew Sullivan, whose magazine put a halo on President Obama, had his crack-up in the wake of polling showing Obama blew his polling lead. Sullivan wailed: “Seriously: has that kind of swing ever happened this late in a campaign? Has any candidate lost 18 points among women voters in one night ever? And we are told that when Obama left the stage that night, he was feeling good. That’s terrifying. On every single issue, Obama has instantly plummeted into near-oblivion.” He bemoaned, “I’m trying to rally some morale, but I’ve never seen a candidate this late in the game, so far ahead, just throw in the towel in the way Obama did last week — throw away almost every single advantage he had with voters and manage to enable his opponent to seem as if he cares about the middle class as much as Obama does. How do you erase that imprinted first image from public consciousness: a president incapable of making a single argument or even a halfway decent closing statement?”
Well, give the man some credit; at least he has more insight than the Obama team: “How can Obama come back? By ensuring people know that Romney was and is a shameless liar and opportunist? That doesn’t work for a sitting president.”
On one level you can see the shattering of the image these and so many other Obama worshipers created. From deity to chump in four years. He was no mortal politician for them, so the fall is as grandiose as was the messiah-like aura they created.
Now some partisans have no patience with such histrionics. Although she is head of the left’s jewel of think tanks, the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden was playing the role of Democratic hall monitor, berating Sullivan on Twitter to pipe down. She might rethink her approach if Obama continues sinking in the polls.
The left’s freak-out is instructive of their view that Obama the candidate flopped but that liberalism as a cause was unblemished. In fact, Obama’s record and rhetoric on everything from hostility to business to regret for America’s international “triumphalism” to pro-abortion extremism (abortion up to the moment of birth, paid for by the government) to the expansion of the liberal welfare state is as close as a president has ever come to the left’s undistilled worldview. His failure to revive the economy after gorging on Keynesianism, like his one-man-wrecking crew in the “peace process” (evidencing the hard left’s antipathy toward the Jewish state), is, in essence, not only a personal failure. His ideas, the left’s hymnal, collapsed on contact with reality.
The left, as I suggested, may soon (if not before the election, than certainly after if he loses) reach the point in which Obama is trashed to save liberalism. It is not, the left tells us, the Keynesian record of failure that was to blame for the debate wipeout; rather it was Obama’s cruddy performance. It’s not that liberalism lacks a reform agenda that is both feasible and politically popular, you see. No, the problem was that Obama didn’t shout “Liar!” loudly enough.
Given a choice between casting off their false idol and giving up the cult of liberalism, there is no competition. Liberals will have no compunction about dumping Obama. The last thing they want is to see what Romney-Ryan have described as a referendum on “two visions.” The Republicans call it a dependency society vs. an opportunity society. But it is really a face-off between modern conservatism and unrepentant liberalism. That’s not a contest the left can afford to lose. So, back to the Obama bashing!