People Like It When You Stand for Things

Don’t look now, but President Obama’s approval rating is going up:

President Barack Obama is ending the year, and his sixth year in office, on a high note — even performing better than his predecessor. A recent Gallup poll shows Obama with a 43 percent December approval rating at the end of his sixth year in office. This puts him ahead of former President George W. Bush, who saw a 37 percent approval rating at the end of his sixth year in 2006.

The poll, published Dec. 19, also shows that former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan enjoyed 67 percent and 48 percent approval ratings at the same point in their tenures, respectively.

But for Obama, it’s the latest in a number of recent polls that have been favorable for the president. Earlier this week, a CNN/ORC poll gave Obama a 48 percent approval rating — his highest since May 2013. And the president’s high approval ratings come amidst a growing confidence among Americans in the expanding economy, with growing jobs numbers to match.

Part of the increase in the president’s approval rating comes from Latinos appreciative of his stand on immigration. But that doesn’t account for all of it.

People were willing for a long time to forgive the Bush Administration its multiple failures and corruptions because at least until Katrina they never seemed to lack for certainty and resolution. You may not have liked what Bush stood for–in fact, you might have felt it was downright evil–but you never doubted that he had the courage to act on his beliefs.

Too often the Obama Administration has seemed listless, adrift and reactive. The President’s stands on immigration and Cuba, and even minor things like calling on only women at a press conference, show a President newly energized, engaged and empowered. He seems like a new man who has stopped caring about trying to be the most nuanced adult in the room. This is a common trap for liberals, culturally speaking, and it’s part of why liberals have a hard time becoming and remaining popular with the broader American public.

The new Obama is a more likable Obama. There’s a lesson to be learned there.

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David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.