What if Obama’s Debt Compromise Doesn’t Impress Independents?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


President Barack Obama won in 2008 with independent voters (and, of course, a hyper-active base of Democrats). But after a year of the Obama presidency, independents were souring on him, and by the 2010 mid-term elections, they seemed to be quite skeptical of the former candidate of hope and change. Thus, one important component of Obama’s reelection strategy is obvious: win the independents back. One way to revive their affections, the thinking goes, is for Obama to rise above Washington’s increasingly bitter fray and produce compromises that demonstrate his ability to make the divided capital function for the American people. Last December’s tax-cut deal fit this strategy. Obama was able to show independents he could forge a compromise with obdurate Republicans—plus, he produced a mini-stimulus for the sputtering economy.

As for this week’s debt ceiling compromise—that seems to be another story. The deal yielded no immediate results that will bolster the economy (though it did prevent GOPers from blowing up the economy), and independents seem to be unimpressed. As Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post and others note, the most interesting aspect of the initial polls taken after the denouement of Debtageddon is that indies are not keen on the compromise. A USA Today/Gallup survey found that 50 percent of self-identified independents disapprove of the compromise; one-third approve. CNN’s survey found that 62 percent of independents are thumb’s-down on the deal. (The deal does better with the whole population—39 percent approve, and 46 disapprove in the Gallup poll—because Democrats (far more than Republicans) considered it a positive outcome.

So if the independents don’t like this deal, does that mean Obama won’t accrue the political bennies he might expect to rack up among this slice of the electorate? In polling during the weeks running up to the final deal, Obama consistently polled more favorably than the congressional Republicans, suggesting his I’m-the-reasonable-guy strategy was paying off political dividends. But if at the end of all this independents think the deal is a stinker, maybe there won’t be any long-lasting political gain for the president. He certainly won’t be able to cite the deal when courting the middle.

Cillizza reports,

Curt Anderson, a Republican media consultant, called compromise a “media fascination” and dismissed polling conducted in the run-up to the deal that suggested people wanted a deal done. “That will always test well, and it is a complete misread and not at all instructive of anything,” said Anderson.

Anderson…insisted that independents (and voters more generally) “want results more than they want compromise.”

And this result was to no one’s liking. Perhaps the political lesson for the White House is that the president is going to have deliver better packages to renew his bond with independents. But given who he has to negotiate with on Capitol Hill, that’s going to be a tough deal to pull off.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate