I just thought of something while reading Patricia Murphy’s excellent article, Why National Democrats Rolled Over for Chris Christie. As I’ve complained about before, President Obama did not endorse Barbara Buono in the New Jersey’s governor’s race. I’ve heard it said that Obama did that as a kind of payback for Christie’s behavior during Hurricane Sandy right before the 2012 presidential election. I don’t know if that’s true, but I wouldn’t doubt it.
But here’s the thing. Christie quite pointedly said at that time that Romney has his man and that he still thought that Romney was the better man for the job than Obama. So why is it that Obama didn’t endorse Buono? Not doing so says that he doesn’t have a preference. Or not much of one. And that may be! Christie’s economic conservatism and social moderation may be exactly what Obama thinks.
I know: the standard line is that Obama is a real liberal but the Republicans just won’t allow him to govern that way. He’s against taking money away from the old and food away from the poor. It is just all those nefarious advances and pools that stop him from doing what he thinks is right! But I really question that narrative. In fact, I know it’s not true. It isn’t that Obama is secretly conservative. I don’t really know. But he definitely leans conservative on economic issues and is too spineless to lead on liberal social issues. This is a man who would have felt right at home in Reagan’s cabinet. And, I mean, that man was forced into supporting same sex marriage by that liberal firebrand Joe Biden!
So it is telling that Obama couldn’t even bother to endorse Buono. She is hardly a liberal firebrand herself. But it could be that Obama finds himself exactly halfway between her and the extremist conservative policies of Christie. Or it could be that he is just a political amateur who somehow thinks he owes Christie something. Or it could be that Obama doesn’t now and never has given half a shit about the Democratic Party outside of his own legacy. Or it could be some combination of all three.
Regardless of the reason, Obama’s lack of a Buono endorsement is unforgivable. And the funny thing is that he seems to do all of his work to shore up his reputation as a bipartisan leader who is the “adult in the room.” He wants people to look back on him like they now look back on Clinton and Reagan. But it ain’t gonna happen. People look back fondly on those presidents because the economies were really good when they left office. When Obama leaves office the economy will at best be continuing to struggle ahead. When most people look back on him, they will think, “Meh.” When people like me look back on him, we will think of him as a guy who talked pretty but wasn’t nearly as liberal as he claimed. We will regret the great opportunity cost of his presidency. And we will despise him for not giving a shit about the party that he ostensibly led.