Obama’s candidacy was defined (to the exasperation of conservatives) by idealism, appeals to bipartisanship, and competency. He is now short on all three — which explains why his support among voters and especially independents (who were susceptible to pledges to end old-style politics) has plummeted.
As for the idealism, no president has sunk so far so fast. Candidate Obama chastised Washington as a place where good ideas died. He summoned young voters with high-minded slogans and Kennedy-esque rhetoric. Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush were mere politicians; he was the leader of a whole new era in politics.
Now? Opponents of health care are stooges, evil-mongers, and villains. Citizen activists are to be reported to the authorities for spreading misinformation or ridiculed. The candidate with the superior temperament has devolved into a peevish president exasperated that mere citizens would question his wisdom or stand in his way.
Bipartisanship has also crashed and burned. During the campaign we heard there was no blue or red America and that the baggage of past political feuds would be left aside. He vowed to put Republicans in his cabinet and to end the blood battles of the Bush years.
Obama and the Democrats threaten to “go it alone ” on health care — ignoring the burgeoning opposition within Democratic ranks. They plan on using the highly controversial reconciliation process to run roughshod over opponents in the Senate. The president, who never solicited  GOP input, declares them to be implacable foes and their ideas out of the realm of consideration.
And then there is the promise of competency. Obama was not going to repeat the lax management and administrative failings of his predecessors. He had no experience, but “judgment” we were promised and he was going to govern with an eye toward pragmatism not pie-in-the-sky adventurism. He was “No Drama” Obama, cool and collected.
Now the adjective most associated with his administration is “chaos .” Liberals are amazed he has frittered away the opportunity of a generation to pass the Democratic dream of nationalized health care. Conservatives marvel that he could have delegated the drafting process to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
In sum, anyone hoping Obama would usher in a new era of idealism, bipartisanship and effective governance must be sorely disappointed. It is now about brute power and bare knuckle politics. The issue of the day now is: Can the president muscle through his increasingly unpopular health care plan by skirting congressional tradition and ignoring an angry electorate?
As the reality of President Obama replaces the promise of candidate Obama, the public has recoiled. Unless the Obama they voted for reappears he is unlikely to regain his standing with voters. And those congressmen and senators who have tied their futures to Obama’s popularity will need to give voters a reason not to take their anger out on them. Or they too will find themselves, as Obama now is, in the voters’ dog house.