The American public are confused, and President Obama doesn't even try to persuade them of his viewpoint; he instead negotiates with Republicans in order to produce a mythical "compromise," which lies in some unseen place at the bottom of the deep ideological canyon that separates the two Parties, someplace between the positions that he ran on and the positions at the opposite side, which is far away and without any bridge or airplane to reach it.
A case in point was published on March 18th when The Hill headlined "Hill Poll: Voters Prefer Republican Budget Ideas, But Dislike GOP." Voters were presented with two plans, without identifying which Party favored which plan: "55 percent of likely voters opted for a plan that would slash $5 trillion in government spending, provide for no additional tax revenue and balance the budget within 10 years - in essence, the path recommended by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week. This was almost twice as many voters as opted for a proposal that would include $1 trillion in added tax revenue as well as $100 billion in infrastructure spending, and which would reduce the deficit without eradicating it. Only 28 percent of voters preferred this option, which reflects the proposal put forth by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) last week."
These findings are what one should expect when we have a President who doesn't educate the people, but who thinks he can just maneuver behind the scenes and negotiate with John Boehner or other Republican leaders, even though the American Society of Civil Engineers rates this country's infrastructure a D+, unchanged since 2001, still in desperate need of repair and/or reconstruction, even after the "stimulus." Obama had had a perfect opportunity to bring that issue of crumbling infrastructure to the public - to lay out the dire condition of our roads, bridges, water tunnels, electrical grid, and other infrastructure that's so in need of bringing up to competitive international standards - when he first came into office. But he did nothing then, except talk about "shovel-ready projects" and "stimulus spending." He didn't even focus at all upon that horrid D+ rating, and what it meant. Nothing at all. He could have energized the nation, pounded the Republicans on their having gotten the nation into this mess and crisis, and taken advantage of the collapse in private hiring that the Republicans had caused, and used it so as to hire millions for work that the nation needs to be done in order for the future economy to thrive. A humming economy brings in more in taxes, and the debt then goes down. But instead, Obama "negotiates," endlessly, with Republicans. Year after year, he "negotiates" with them, instead of pounds them into shame.
When did he ever go to the nation with photos, and charts, and graphs, and present witnesses who could testify personally to the wasted 30 minutes extra a day they travel to get to work, because of a bridge out of service, or present a mother whose child is sick because of contaminated drinking water, etc.? Never. He won't attack the Republicans for what they did to this country; he "negotiates" with them.
There are many jobs to be done, right now, which are more important than many of the jobs that are being done in private industry (the Republican Party's nirvana), and the outcomes from which will benefit everyone, and not only "entrepreneurs"; but, instead, Obama is not laying out the case: he's not saying what are these jobs, and how many people will be put to work by them, and how much training will be required from the government in order to get these jobs done, and how useful will that job-training itself be, to these workers and the economy, after Bush's, and now Obama's, economic slump is finally over?
Instead, Obama simply negotiates with John Boehner about how much to cut Social Security, and how much to cut Medicare, and how much to cut Medicaid, and how much to cut, throughout the government, in order to be able to make up, for what? For the trillions of dollars that Obama's Administration and Bush's Administration have been, and still are, spending, in order to bail out the investors in the mega-banks on Wall Street. Basically, Obama is relying upon Wall Street, so as to get Main Street going again. And all the while, he "negotiates," with Republicans.
It's no wonder, then, the voters are confused: so is this President. He didn't get us into this mess, but he sure doesn't know how to get us out of it. He can't "negotiate" his way out of it. That won't work. Obama still hasn't learned this.
The reason why Obama doesn't constantly make, to the public, the cases that he needs to make, and has needed to make ever since he got into office, is that he thinks he'll find the answers if only he looks hard enough at the bottom of that vast and deep canyon, and finds some way to meet with John Boehner, down there, outside of public view.
Leadership means having a vision and presenting it, constantly, to the public, so as to get the public's buy-in to it, like Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, when he came into the White House after many years of Republican misrule and corruption (not basically different than the eight Bush years, except for the invasion of Iraq, which Republicans still support).
What we needed when a new President was sworn in on 20 January 2008 was another Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What we got was just mush.
That's why the public is still confused: America has no leader.
Voters knew that Mitt Romney craved to lead us in the wrong direction, but Barack Obama still hasn't presented any direction. He just "negotiates" his - and our - collective failure.
America needs a real progressive in the White House: someone like Elizabeth Warren. Someone who is ready, and willing, to lead, not just to "negotiate" the failure of us all.
This is what our times call for. The political hacks are destroying the nation, regardless of which side of the "negotiations" with the Republicans they are on. FDR didn't negotiate with Republicans; he led.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They're Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST'S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.