DOYLE McMANUS: A plague on both your parties

Only two weeks ago, President Barack Obama looked like a man on the rise. He and his party had successfully stared down Republicans in a 16-day government shutdown. Voters were angrier at the GOP than any time since, well, the last government shutdown. A confident-looking Obama declared it was time to get the country back on track with quick action on a budget agreement, immigration reform and a bipartisan farm bill.

“One of the things that I hope all of us have learned these past few weeks is that it turns out smart, effective government is important,” he said.

How long ago that moment seems now.

Since then, almost nothing has gone right for the president. The messy rollout of his biggest achievement, the Affordable Care Act, has careened from a simple case of website glitches to a nightmare of consumer complaints. Some of the country’s closest allies have expressed outrage at reports that the NSA was tapping the cellphones of their leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And last week, the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll reported that Obama’s approval rating had sunk to 42 percent, an all-time low for him in that survey.

But the president wasn’t alone in losing ground. That same poll found that the Republican Party has also hit an all-time low, with only 22 percent of voters saying they had a positive opinion of the GOP. Most dramatically, 63 percent of voters said they wanted to fire their current member of Congress, while only 29 percent said their representative deserved reelection.

We’ve finally found an issue on which almost all Americans, right and left, agree: We hate having a federal government that creates problems instead of solving them.

In Washington, of course, the big question is what effect the public’s sour mood will have on next year’s congressional election, in which Republicans hope to take over the Senate and Democrats hope to take over the House of Representatives.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg surveyed 80 “battleground districts” that could change hands and found that Republicans look more vulnerable than before. In some Republican districts, he told me, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is now even more unpopular than former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

So far, Obama’s second term hasn’t given his supporters much cause for optimism. Like Bush, Obama came out of re-election declaring that voters had given him a mandate, only to discover that voters’ patience with a president can wear thin astonishingly fast. Whether he regains public confidence now depends largely on making his healthcare program work – its insurance plans, not just its website. For the president, it comes down to one thing: Obamacare.

Doyle McManus is a columnist for The Los Angeles Times. Readers may send him email at doyle.mcmanuslatimes.com.

  • TWBDB

    Very true. I’ve always been an Obama supporter, still agree with his platform, but I’m really very disappointed with his implementation skills. It’s become increasingly obvious that the Pres must micro-manage to succeed and it appears he leaves too much to those who report to him, the Buck Stops Somewhere Below Him, and it just can’t. I still favor the Democratic Party because at the very least they do try to get something done and indeed did get a lot done when they controlled both houses.

    The Republicans do have rising moderate stars. But they, like Obama, need to get a backbone. They’ve got to educate their constituents to the fact that a strong nation must have a functioning central government and one that leads from the center balancing the extremes. You cannot let anarchy reign in your party and that’s what is reigning there today. Someone has to stand up to the Far Right and tell them it is not OK to function solely as obstructionist and it is most definitely not OK to cater to people who will openly wish harm on other American citizens. The only thing good about the rhetoric over the last few years has been that it is now clearly in the light to burn.