A year ago the nation was in love with Barack Obama and blissful about Hope and Change. Today the latest CNN poll says that the President's popularity has fallen under 50 percent--48 percent, actually.
Meanwhile, a number of progressive causes seem to be flagging. For example, enactment of gay marriage laws failed in Maine (by public vote) and this week in the New York Senate. The legislative outlook has turned sour in New Jersey's Senate, as well, and activists in California have concluded--after conducting a study--that the political chances for same sex marriage have declined there, too. The President may or may not be prepared to do battle for repeal of the DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), but if the topic is toxic in New Jersey, how appetizing will it be on Capitol Hill?
Despite the endless media accounts of global warming and strong White House backing, Cap and Trade prospects seem to be colder than today's early winter snow in Houston. The ClimateGate scandal still has not been covered by the big three broadcast networks--and when it is covered it probably will be with a report on the "hacker" (aka, the leaker or whistleblower), rather than on the possibly shabby research methods behind the climate change "consensus". Nonetheless, the word seems to be getting out. Polls that already were negative on Cap and Trade are now decidedly so.
But instead of seeking common ground (nuclear energy, natural gas, conservation), the cultural and environmental left seems determined to push economic overehaul rather than energy reform.
Next we have the Afghanistan policy--and another split on the left. Conservatives seem more or less united in support of a troop surge (my Discovery Institute colleague John R. Miller is an able exception). And almost all conservatives are critical of the President for being unclear about our goal.
But on the left there is confusion and resentment on the whole topic. Isolationism in the 21st century has its home in the Democratic party. Effective pacifism is now the altar where the activist base worships. But the Democratic office-holders who have to get elected on the national level are realistic enough to see that the U.S. cannot abandon the war on terrorism, even if it no longer is P.C. to describe it as a "war on terrorism." Afghanistan will open the split wider.
Meanwhile, the biggest reason the air seems to be going out of the "progressive" balloon is the economy. Once again, the right seems substantially in agreement that the amount of government spending is wantonly irresponsible and also that taxes should be cut, not raised, to spur the investment to create jobs. (Remember, that was the Reagan formula.) They also hold that government regulatory failure--starting in Congress--was largely to blame for the recent real estate bubble. But on the left, Democrats cannot decide what to do about spending or taxes. The famously problematic health care issue is no political substitute for dealing with the economy as a whole, yet it has absorbed most of the Administration's attention and the House's, too. The left's divisions on all these topics are now in the open.
So, less than eleven months into the Obama Administration, man made change in the Earth's climate is a lot less certain than change in the political climate.