The Washington Post and ABC have conducted a joint poll which asked respondents to rate Obama’s presidency on whether it has been a “failure” or a “success.” Note that this question is different conceptually from whether you approve or disapprove of the job someone is doing as President, which indicates current trajectory rather than overall performance. The results nonetheless were probably about what you’d expect:

A majority of Americans and even many Democrats consider President Obama’s tenure to be a “failure,” according to a new poll from the Washington Post and ABC News.

The poll shows Americans say 52-42 that Obama has been more of a failure than a success. Among registered voters, the gap is even bigger — at 55-39 — with four in 10 (41 percent) saying they “strongly” believe Obama has been a failure.

Those saying Obama has been a failure include one in four Democrats (25 percent), nearly three in 10 liberals (29 percent) and the vast, vast majority of conservative Republicans (92 percent). Nearly one in five liberals (18 percent) say they feel “strongly” that Obama has been a failure.

Of course, the responding groups probably have vastly different definitions of “failure” and what constitutes failure. Nonetheless it is kind of hard to ignore the conclusion that on the domestic front, Obama has not really accomplished anything of note other than Obamacare, which remains broadly unpopular and subject to ongoing legal challenges. On foreign policy the unfolding debacles across the globe have led people to forget exactly what was so wrong with Bush in the first place.

Americans by and large place too much responsibility on the shoulders of the President for how things are going, especially in the domestic arena. The reality is that for the most part, economic powers that are far more powerful than anything any President does are largely responsible for the regular ebb and flow of the American economy. That is not to say that the President has no control over what happens economically and several of Obama’s actions (most notably Obamacare) have had deleterious economic effects, but by and large we still mistakenly assign too much credit and/or blame for the state of the country at large on the shoulders of a single person.

Under normal circumstances I would say that this is just part of our normal human tendency to tend towards the fundamental attribution error, but in the case of Obama, he deliberately fostered an atmosphere of stratospheric expectations upon his own person as President. It is difficult to say that people expected too much of the man who closed the 2008 primary season by declaring of his own nomination:

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.

The disappointing thing about this entire spectacle, as yet another generation comes to crashing disillusionment as the new boss turns out to be the same as the old boss, is that we’ll probably have to do it all again with the next generation that arises. We saw it in the 60s, again in the Clinton era, and now again with Obama. Each successive generation must be taught that there is no such thing really as a truly different politician, and that in the end waiting for government to fix all your problems will inevitably lead you to conclude that government has failed to do so. But in the meantime, the terrible fingerprints of the buffoons elected by the suckers live on in perpetuity and the failure behemoth gets ever larger and never smaller, so that when it fails again, the effect is greater each time.

Unless this cycle is eventually broken, by someone who can actually win by promising that the government will be less and do less, the trajectory of America will likely not change. And that, folks, is not Obama’s fault, it’s ours.

Tags: Barack Obama