Almost from the first day of Obama’s presidency, I began seeing a really offensive bumper sticker, “So how do you like Obama now?” My reaction even at the time was, “I’m fine with him.” But my problem with the bumper sticker has always been that it was presumptuous. The implication was that Obama promised something that he hadn’t delivered. Or even more: that supporters of the president were duped by him. What it really says is, “I told you so!” But it isn’t clear what the reader is supposed to have been told. What’s really going on is that the conservative with the bumper sticker didn’t like Obama before and doesn’t like him now. There’s a shocker!
But recently, I’ve been thinking more about the “bait and switch” message of the bumper sticker. I’ve looked. There don’t appear to have been any bumper stickers that said, “So how do you like Bush now?” The only thing I’ve found is another bumper sticker that came out a bit later; it features an image of Bush with the text, “How do you like me now?” So there was a sense among conservatives that Obama had in fact conned the American people. And now they must know.
I’m not completely against that reading: I think that the nation as a whole (including Obama) conned itself into thinking that the Republicans were just like the rest of us and that they wanted what was best for the country. The only way that Obama misled the country was by claiming that he would usher in a post-partisan era. Well, he tried — far harder than was reasonable. But that was a pretty vague notion to start with. And regardless, that is not what conservatives were thinking of when they put these lame bumper stickers on their SUVs. They were thinking of policy. In general, they were not upset because Obama didn’t do what he said he would do but rather because he did almost exactly what he said he would do.
But now this is linked in my mind to Scott Walker. What do the voters of Wisconsin think of Walker now? Well, they aren’t as keen on him as they once were. And in that case, they have a reasonably good case: Walker did deceive them. Rather than telling the truth when faced with the subject of Wisconsin becoming a “right to work” state, Walker always brushed it aside claiming that it wasn’t in the realm of possibilities. When it was, he couldn’t get to his pen fast enough to sign it.
I’ve been critical of the people of Wisconsin — and other states as well. Anyone who pays attention to politics should have known what Scott Walker was up to. It wasn’t just his hedging on the “right to work” issue. Everything he had done in his four years as governor indicated that he would do absolutely anything he could to destroy unions. Politicians are usually pretty clear about what they intend to do. And when they won’t answer a question, it means they intend to do what is unpopular.
But most people are busy just trying to make ends meet. So they can be forgiven for not noticing some of the subtleties of politics. Obama did not intend to deceive. But clearly Scott Walker did. In fact, pretty much any Republican politician will intentionally deceive — unless they are in an area that is overwhelmingly Republican. That’s because (for the umpteenth time), Republican policies are unpopular. So it makes a lot more sense to ask voters what they think of Republicans after they have betrayed their voters.