How Times Have Changed

Back in 2008, as far as Democrats were concerned, having Barack Obama out with Democratic candidates on the campaign trail was an absolute necessity. They couldn’t get enough of the guy. The future president of the United States was a celebrity, people flocked to him and his message, and he was even seen as a messianic figure.

Now? Well, most of the time, when President Obama offers to help out Democratic candidates running in this midterm election season, the overwhelming response is “thanks, but no thanks.”

Last week, speaking at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Mr. Obama declared that while he was not up for re-election, his “policies are on the ballot.” Immediately, Republicans pounced, putting the clip in videos to link their rivals to the president. Democrats winced, and David Axelrod, the longtime Obama adviser, acknowledged Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the remark was “a mistake.”

A succession of domestic and foreign crises, along with some self-inflicted wounds, has badly tarnished Mr. Obama. And that is on top of the history of the president’s party doing poorly in midterm elections.

I highlight the excerpt above because it is so extraordinary; of course the president’s policies are on the ballot, and saying so should hardly have caused a kerfuffle. But a kerfuffle we have, because Democrats desperately want the public to believe that the president and his policies are not the focal points of the election; that is how unpopular the president and his administration have become, and that’s how much Democrats want to shift the focus away from him.

I guess I can’t blame them for thinking and feeling this way. The second term has been a disaster, with missed opportunities and badly implemented policies haunting the president and his administration ever since he took the oath of office for the second time, and with crisis after crisis overwhelming the administration’s ability to set the political agenda and lead in a constructive manner. If I were a Democrat running for office, I wouldn’t want to be associated with this record either, but it really does say something about the governing party in the United States that its election slogan has been reduced to “yeah, well the other guys are even worse than we are.” If that is the only rationale Democrats have to offer, maybe voters shouldn’t let them lead until they can come up with a better one.

If they can.