According to Gallup, President Obama’s job-approval rating is at 50 percent, exactly what Ronald Reagan enjoyed at a comparable period in his second term. In fact, if not for the 22nd Amendment, Obama could be running for re-election right now as a virtual shoo-in against anybody in the Republican field.
Barack Obama vs. Ted Cruz? Marco Rubio? Donald Trump? Please, don’t make me laugh.
Republicans cannot possibly accept that truth, of course. Within the bubble that defines their universe, Obama remains the devil incarnate. Everybody within that bubble knows that the man hates America, that he set out to destroy it from within and has largely succeeded, just as Marco Rubio says over and over and over again. They all still believe that their predictions of Obama-caused disaster have come true, facts be damned.
Outside the bubble, things look different.
ObamaCare, for example, was supposed to kill the economy and freedom both; instead, some 20 million more Americans have health insurance and Republicans are still trying to figure out what their replacement plan would be.
The Dodd-Frank bill, which set out to re-regulate Wall Street, was predicted by Republicans to doom the financial markets and halt job growth in its tracks, yet the Dow Jones index has almost doubled since Dodd-Frank was signed into law and we’ve now enjoyed 72 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, the longest stretch ever. In raw numbers — not percentage of workforce but actual raw numbers — initial jobless claims last week were the lowest they have been since 1973, back when the total workforce was 70 million smaller than it is today.
Yet even now, to hear Republicans talk, Obama has left the American economy a smoldering wreck.
It’s also worth noting that while Republicans have attacked the Obama administration as “the most corrupt government in history,” history itself will record that Obama has presided over the most scandal-free administration since that of George Washington. It’s actually pretty remarkable: No prominent member of his administration has been indicted; none has left office under an ethical cloud. The string of pseudo-scandals that his opponents have attempted to blow up into something earth-shaking have never amounted to more than bureaucratic mistakes inherent in any large organization.
And of course, that record of success has been achieved in the face of an all-out, no-compromise, often bizarre and irrational campaign of character assassination and obstructionism by the GOP, a campaign that continues even now with its refusal to consider an Obama nominee for the Supreme Court. When historians sit down to assess the Obama presidency, the circumstances in which he was forced to operate by his opponents will carry a lot of weight.
And you know what else will play a big role in that assessment? The fact that by the end of his second term, the GOP’s all-consuming effort to destroy Obama’s presidency instead led directly to the meltdown of the GOP itself. It turns out — no surprise — that an obsession ends up destroying not its target, but those who feed and nurture it. It also turns out that you can indeed create an alternative universe with an alternative set of facts, but eventually that false universe will have to be reconciled with reality, with jarring consequences.