Barack Obama is fast losing the benefit of the doubt he was given on taking office. His approval ratings – now at 46% according to the reliable Rasmussen Reports – continue to slide. They are destined to bottom out, but that is small comfort. They continue to move in the direction of the abysmal approval ratings of Congress – now at 29% - both branches of which are controlled by the political party to which Obama belongs.
The situation of the Democratic Party in the United States is reminiscent of that of the Socialist Party in France of once upon a time - a party that no longer amounts to much; I’m thinking of former days under Mitterand and Jospin. When the Socialist Party did what conservatives are supposed to do: steer a prudential course in terms of fiscal and foreign policy (read fiscal restraint, balanced budgets, avoidance of international commitments that restrict future margins of maneouver), it didn’t fare too badly. But as soon as the Socialists tried to enact the dreams of their hearts – vast new projects of social engineering – it lost credibility. Its popularity shrank. That’s because social engineering and reforms in general are a tricky business. The devil one knows almost always seems preferable to the devil one has yet to see in action.
It is my hope that the Obama administration will partner with Congress to pass reforms that will stand the test of time. The better leglisation produced in the past decades was the result of compromise across ideological divides. I suggest that that will be the case in the now and in the future.