“I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.”
That’s what President Obama heard from a middle class, African-American woman at a townhall meeting Monday, who identified herself as a wife, mother, veteran, CFO for a veteran’s services organization, and middle class American.
“I have been told that I voted for a man that said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I’m one of those people and I’m waiting, sir. I’m waiting. I don’t feel it yet, and I thought while it wouldn’t be in great measure, I would feel it in some small measure.”
And after sharing some of the particulars of her own family’s situation, the town hall questioner concluded:
“Quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly: Is this my new reality?”
(Watch the video here.)
The president answered: “Times are tough for everybody right now, so I understand your frustration,” then gave examples of policies he has enacted to help the middle class, including more student loans and consumer protections for credit card users.
While careful not to downplay the seriousness of America’s economic woes, the president also insisted that things are getting better:
“My goal here is not to try to convince you that everything’s where it needs to be. It’s not. That’s why I ran for president. But what I am saying is, is that we’re moving in the right direction.”
(Video of the President’s full answer here.)
While facing criticism from his own 2008 supporters, Obama is also taking fire from House Democrats, seeking to distance themselves from the White House and from Speaker Pelosi.
Western Pennsylvania voters for instance, were recently treated to a new campaign ad wherein constituents say “I like that Jason Altmire [a Democratic Congressman from PA] is not afraid to stand up to the president and Nancy Pelosi.”
And this weekend, Chet Edwards (D-TX) launched an ad saying that he “stood up to” Pelosi and Obama by voting against their health care reform bill.
As Democrats mutiny and Republicans take the lead in nationwide polling ahead of the November election, due in no small part to the desperation Americans are feeling in a stagnant economy, the Obama Administration is scrambling for answers.
Gone are the early days of the administration when the newly-elected president could blame our economic woes on the policies of George W. Bush and ask for Americans to give him some more time. The White House is searching for a new narrative that makes sense to Americans and deflects blame for the hard times many are facing.
The New York Times reported Sunday that White House advisers were considering national advertisements “to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists,” a charge the White House vehemently denies.
If true, the report would mean a shocking confession by White House advisers that they have nothing to say about the causes of our economic turmoil, and prefer instead to redirect our attention to the alleged “extremism” of the GOP’s November candidates.
The approach may or may not limit damage to the Democrats’ hold on Congress this November, but what it certainly would not do is answer the implicit question in the unease and desperation that Americans are feeling right now: “Is this my new reality?”