President Obama has forgotten all about his dozens of “hard pivots to job creation” and made a much harder pivot to shoring up the youth vote, touring college campuses to promote a $6 billion extension of student loan subsidies that would be financed with… higher taxes on small businesses, the great engines of American job creation.
That’s right: the Administration is actually talking about paying for this particular load of lollipops, which is an improvement, but they’re talking about doing it by closing a “tax loophole” that allows shareholders of small businesses to avoid paying the Medicare payroll tax on company earnings. Amusingly, Reuters notes this is “sometimes called the ‘John Edwards’ loophole after the former Democratic vice presidential nominee, who formed an S-Corporation in the 1990s when he was a trial lawyer.”
Remember the lexicon of politics: good tax breaks and subsidies are “deductions” and “credits” which are “earned” by the worthy, while bad tax deductions are “loopholes.”
Part of his youth outreach has involved Obama playing up his “cool factor” by, among other things, appearing on late-night comedy shows. This is intended to favorably contrast Obama with his notoriously stiff, filthy rich aristocratic opponent, Baron Willard Mitt Harkonnen Osmond Romney.
Instead, Obama finds himself facing a good deal of mockery for his desperate attempts to appear “cool,” along with some worried analysis from media observers who fret about the incumbent appearing frivolous amid the wreckage of his disastrous first term. The Republican National Committee offers “A Tale of Two Leaders”:
While American Crossroads asks young voters, “After four years of a celebrity President, is your life any better?”
The problem facing Obama is that he’s playing to a notoriously unreliable constituency, the youth vote, in a way that will alienate everyone else. He’s also tossing out a degree of flash and swagger that contrasts uncomfortably with his actual record, which offers little to celebrate.
Obviously, he’s not going to get re-elected by admitting his failures and tearfully apologizing for them, but going too far the other way can really irk a public that generally admires confidence, but despises delusional arrogance. A bit of relaxed good humor goes a long way for any candidate, but incumbents are always on defense, and must be careful not to appear out-of-touch. Disconnectedness is a potent political toxin.
This is not the moment for a style-over-substance celebrity campaign to convince the cool kids that Obama is one of them. Not when the rest of American longs for an adult in the White House, which current emits a lot of frat party music and adolescent excuses, on the rare occasions when it isn’t empty.