In the wake of the Democrats' "shellacking" in the November elections, there has been no shortage of advice from the press about what the president "must" do to recover. A quick Google news search of the term "Obama must" turned up the following sampling:
-Obama must reclaim the progressive base. (Howard Dean)
-Obama must move in the direction of the new Republican House majority. (Eric Cantor)
-Obama must scare the hell out of the American people about the deficit. (Morton Kondrake)
-Obama must focus on seniors and blue collar workers by protecting Social Security and pushing for a new stimulus package. (Martin Frost)
-Obama must cut the federal workforce, in addition to freezing their pay (Detroit News)
-Obama must enthusiastically work with Republicans on some issues and fight them on others (Michael Waldman)
-Obama must not extend tax cuts for the wealthy. (Florida News-Press)
-Obama must learn to be like Clinton and back off his agenda. (Grover Norquist)
-Obama must chose between Wall Street and Main Street. (Kos)
-Obama must back off his liberal, statist agenda and start listening to the American people. (Cynthia Lummis)
-Obama must battle the Republicans. (Guam P D N)
-Obama must compromise. (Newsmax)
My advice? President Obama should not listen to any of these people. They can't all be right, obviously, and most of this advice just seems to reflect the particular agenda of whoever is offering the advice. President Obama is still the most popular elected official in the country. His approval rating, according to Gallup, is at the moment three points HIGHER than Reagan's at the same point in his presidency. (Do I need to remind people that Reagan was re-elected in one of the largest landslides in history?) The administration is about to complete one of the most successful legislative sessions in history, having already passed landmark legislation to stimulate the economy, reform financial regulation, and reform the health insurance industry. The TARP program, begun under President Bush but continued by the current administration, is going to end up costing the taxpayers practically nothing. The economy, though still sluggish and with unemployment still too high, is showing steady and continued growth. The United States, despite the embarrassing release of a trove of diplomatic cables, is still more respected abroad than it has been in years.
Why change course now? The main reason the Democrats took a beating in November is that the policies they put in place--especially health care reform, the stimulus, and TARP--were highly unpopular with large segments of the American public. Yet all these policies were necessary medicine to fix the disasters that the administration inherited. More importantly, all these policies are working, and nobody had any viable alternatives to suggest. If the economy continues to improve, and health care reform starts to show some benefits, people's fears about the direction we are headed will subside.
Hope and change is still the only workable agenda on the table.