A new Gallup poll shows self-professed conservatives now outnumber self-professed liberals in the United States, 42 percent to 21 percent. Another 37 percent described themselves as moderates. Since early 2008, the number of people identifying themselves as conservative has increased while the number of people identifying themselves as moderate and liberal have decreased. This isn’t surprising. The United States is a center-right country – and living under a liberal president and a liberal Congress for most of the last three years has nudged us in a more conservative, less liberal direction.
All of which makes Obama’s re-election strategy puzzling. He’s talking and acting in a way that fortifies his liberal credentials, essentially rejecting the (successful) Clinton 1995-1996 model. Perhaps Obama has decided that unlike Clinton, a former Southern, “New Democrat” governor, the clothes of moderation simply don’t fit very well.
Obama — by history, disposition, and ideology – is a deeply liberal man. He has absorbed many of the assumptions and attitudes of the academy. And so in his effort to win re-election, he’s running as his most authentic self: a class warrior, a divider, a man keen to stoke resentments and caricature and slander his opponents. It isn’t pretty, it’s certainly not consistent with the Obama of 2008, and I rather doubt it will be successful. But perhaps the last refuge of a desperate campaign is to let Obama be Obama.