The national press has ordained Obama as the most popular of any outgoing presidents. In fact it has been reported that Obama, with a 56% approval rate, is more popular than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, one of whom will be president come 2017. Obama is probably one of the most successful presidents in recent time. Even when his policies were not that popular, President Obama had a very high personal approval, because people like him as a person. The montage reason for his success is as long as many people want to guess. It includes the incompetent Republican congress and just corrupt and spinelessness opposition. For one, Obama limited his agenda in the first four years of his presidency to very few and specific goals. But there are some other attributes of Obama that should be considered as the reason for his popularity and which any of his successor should bear in mind. Obama has used any of those reasons to the highest degree. And here they are:
- Always remember to blame your predecessor for everything possible that you can get away with.
The first thing going for Mr. Obama was the successful destruction of George W. Bush’s presidency by the Democrats with the willing help from and spearheaded by the American press. Mr. Obama campaigned on that discredit and for the first couple of years in office, reminded everyone who was his predecessor. Mr. Obama frequently blamed his predecessor for all the ills of the country from economy to foreign policy and security. And since Mr. Bush’s popularity was in the dumps, the citizens of this country were more than forgiving on any mistake that Obama made as president. Even the remnant of the Republican Party cowed by Obama to avoid being singled out by the American press as racist or obstructive. Republicans went along to get along.
- Limit what the country should expect from your presidency.
In his first term Mr. Obama focused on healthcare reform as a fulfillment of his campaign promise. He was very lucky that the Democrats control both the two houses of legislation and the executive. As a result Mr. Obama was able to implement his program even when not a single Republican voted for it. Mr. Obama reminded the nation “elections have consequences” and so it did. With the promise that premiums would come down when everyone in the country purchase health insurance, and that anyone would be able to go to his or her healthcare provider, the nation reluctantly accepted the program. With that fulfillment of his flagship campaign promise, many people gave Obama credit as someone who not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. By the time the ramification of the Affordable Health Care rolled in, the real beneficiaries found something to sink their teeth in. These beneficiaries were the very poor who now receive enough money from the federal government to pay for their premiums. Those people, the classic “47%”, are forever grateful to Mr. Obama no matter what anybody else says. That means that the lowest approval rate Mr. Obama could have in the poll is 47%. With that as the baseline, few additional people are needed to boost his popularity beyond that baseline. Norman Thomas, a Socialist candidate for President in 1944 once said: “The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened”. How true indeed! The country has inched closer to the tenet of that truth.
- Be generous in your policies.
William F. Buckley, Jr. once said: “Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples’ money.” Mr. Obama was probably one of the most generous presidents in our lifetime, accumulating national debt to the tune of trillions of dollars to make it possible. And as a result, he has many programs named after him. Beside Obamacare, there is also Obamaphone. The first economy-stimulating program that the president introduced was the Cash for Clunkers. It allowed many people with aging cars to trade in for newer ones with the Federal government subsidizing the trade-in. It was supposed to help struggling auto manufacturers like General Motors and Chrysler. The idea was to stimulate the economy and improve the environment at the same time. Detractors argued that the law of unintended consequences showed that the $3 billion program drove up the price of cars and actually polluted the environment as non-metal parts of the cars went straight to landfills. The cars traded in were shredded rather than recycled. Most poor consumers who could only afford cars in fair to good condition were priced out of the market. Worst of all, it resulted in scarcity of spare parts. However, people who had the chance to change their five-year old Escape for a brand new one at lower cost than they would have otherwise pay, the dealers and car manufacturers were grateful for it.
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Obamaphone is one program that had been around for a long time, but was exponentially expanded under President Obama, hence the name ‘Obamaphone”. It provides smart phone plus 250 minutes of text and voice per month each for millions of poor people who wouldn’t own one. To qualify you just have to be on public assistance including Food Stamps, Medicaid, Disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), National Free School Lunch, Federal Housing/Section 8 Assistance, or just have low enough household gross monthly income. Although Obamaphone program benefits the low-income people in the society, greater benefits go to phone suppliers of the program. There are several tiers of such companies based on the number of subscribers. The first tier and largest of these companies serve several millions in several states. Safelink Wireless and Assurance Wireless have 3.8 and 2.7 million customers respectively. The second tier companies, Budget Mobile, Access Wireless, Life Wireless, ReachOut Wireless and True Wireless, each one serves about 700,000 customers. The third tier with less than a quarter of a million customers includes Tag Mobile and Terracom Wireless. Although I have no dollar figures concerning the profit made, all of the above wireless companies have employees and shareholders. Add those to the 47% baseline and you get a nice bump in popularity. Unlike Bush’s Part D program that went almost exclusively to the senior citizens, many of whom are considered well-off without debts, the Obamaphone is for the poor that most people felt need the help.
- Claim success for any program even with obvious drawbacks.
After the expiration of Cash for Clunkers program in 2009 President Obama declared that the program was a spectacular success. “There were skeptics who weren’t sure that this ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program would work,” President Obama declared. “But I’m happy to report that it has succeeded well beyond our expectations and all expectations, and we’re already seeing a dramatic increase in showroom traffic at local car dealers.” With the national press always willing to trumpet any utterance, such self-congratulation is a staple of Obama’s presidency. Although it may not be all true, saying it with confidence tend to help sow the seed of accomplishment in the minds of the American people.
Mitt Romney committed political suicide during the 2012 presidential campaign by telling the truth. Not realizing an open microphone, Romney talked about 47% of the electorate that were so dependent on government handouts that they will always vote as a bloc in a particular way no matter what. To seal his fate the Press put Social Security recipients as part of those 47%. However when you look at the limitless government program beneficiaries, it is impossible to run a successful national campaign without promising freebies. It is a lesson that the Democrats have learned and mastered quite well. The Republicans still preach the value of hard work and self-reliance. With the expansion of welfare and other government programs that are much easier to get than ever before in the past seven years under President Obama, our Republican candidate may have to utilize the same tactic to get into office so as to make some necessary adjustments for this country to survive on the long run. Welfare law was adjusted in 1996 only when the Republicans became the majority in the House of Representative under the speakership of Newt Gingrich. Similar overhaul of many programs are necessary today and it cannot be done until someone in office determines to do it.
Mind you, I am not calling for Republicans to lie their way to office as Democrats do. But the Democrats, like the Republicans, preach the value of hard work, honesty and self-help during any campaign, values that they know quite well are part of American staple. Once the democrats get into office, they make sure that they create a class of dependence to secure the future elections of democrats. With a little luck, the Republicans may still have the chance to reshape this country within the dreams and confines of our constitution framers. Considering the present disunity in their ranks, only future will tell.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.