Why Barack Obama struggles to mobilise the majority that won him the White House
Lexington column @ the Economist
IN THE 1947 Broadway hit “Brigadoon”, an American traveller is haunted by a brief encounter with a Scottish village that comes to life for a day every 100 years, before vanishing once more into the mists. It is a hokey Highlands tale, crammed with dodgy kilts and still dodgier lyrics—“Don’t ye ken, There’s a fair, Down on MacConnachy Square?”—but the premise is oddly moving. Back in his bar-hopping Manhattan life, the hero cannot shake off memories of the magical village and the girl he loved there.
Barack Obama shows signs of being similarly haunted. The president’s yearning centres on the more than 65m Americans who elected him in 2008 and again in 2012, rallied by his life story and flair for campaigning, then brought to the polls by a get-out-the-vote operation of nearly magical brilliance.
Tantalising glimpses of that America keep appearing. It must be maddening for Mr Obama. Shades of his winning coalition—which includes young voters, black voters, suburban women, unmarried women and Hispanics—can be sensed whenever majorities of Americans tell pollsters that they support such second-term priorities as increased background checks for gun-buyers or bold immigration reforms. Even on the most wonkish questions, such as the proper balance between spending cuts and tax increases for the rich, Mr Obama can point to polls and argue that he has a nationwide majority of voters on his side, including Americans of both parties. And then, time and again, the political mists swirl and his majority somehow vanishes. Since his re-election Mr Obama has been thwarted, defiantly, by Republicans who, in effect, kept a lock on Congress in 2012. He has endured a quieter, more scurrying sort of abandonment by congressional Democrats anxious about getting re-elected in Obama-sceptical bits of the country.
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