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Only 15% of Americans think Obama's Washington is working; So, what happens now?

February 22, 2010 |  5:46 am

Democrat president Barack Obama Walks to the Oval Office after a trip 2-2-10

After months of what sure looks like political gridlock in the nation's capitol despite voters having handed majority control of all three political institutions to Democrats back in 2008, almost three-out-of-four Americans today say "Washington right now is broken."

Even more amazingly, one out of four Americans still haven't been fully convinced that the nation's capitol is broken.

Actually, a new Rasmussen Reports Poll finds 73% see DC as broken while only 15% disagree. Twelve percent, who've been watching the Weather Channel or catching up on "The Sopranos" DVD's, aren't really sure.

Only 13 months and two days after Democrats lead by Barack Obama rode up Pennsylvania Avenue with....

...overwhelming legislative majorities and a perceived mandate for big changes, not to mention an approval rating above 70%, an overwhelming majority of voters are now united in believing that place isn't working. Certainly not to the public's advantage anyway.

A similar 75% of likely voters are now angry at current government policies. That's up 9 points since September and four points since November when angry voters dumped Democrats out of the New Jersey and Virginia governors' offices, despite Obama's campaigning there.

Numerous polls find that Americans' dissatisfaction with capitol politics is the highest since 1994, when distaste for Bill Clinton's first two liberal years (and a national healthcare proposal) produced the so-called Republican Revolution. That conventional political wisdom suggests that in a two-party system during a midterm election year like this with high levels of unemployment and dissatisfaction, voters will retaliate by putting some "outs" back "in."

But that's not the only possible scenario. Those same Rasmussen numbers reveal that 60% of voters believe neither the Republican nor Democratic leaders know what to do. That number is up from 52% in November.

Democrats Barack Obama Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi

It's, in effect, a strongly bipartisan dissatisfaction. Which might suggest a wave of cynical apathy, leaving November's decision-making to the most motivated minority that shows up to cast a ballot.

Or, which could suggest another avenue of political protest, something like Ross Perot's Reform Party of 1992 or George Wallace's American Independent Party of 1968.

Can you say Tea Party? Those big government/big tax protesters do not have a national party or leader, and Republicans as disparate as Michael Steele and Sarah Palin are encouraging these motivated, disaffected people to join the comfy conservative GOP.

But, ironically, the grassroots wildfire emergence of so-called Tea Party candidates such as in Nevada could help save Obama's bacon by splitting the anti-Democrat vote come November.

A number of savvy Republicans in Washington see this as at least part of the strategy behind Obama's  allegedly bipartisan healthcare summit this Thursday. Since the public is already pretty angry at controlling Democrats with Nancy Pelosi's favorables right down there with Darth Vader and Harry Reid trailing anybody in Nevada, why not draw the GOP closer to the campfire in a suddenly rediscovered desire for legislative transparency?

Appearing to stand above it all with only the country's interests at heart, the president could try to disassociate himself from these two petty political parties and would generously be willing to share with Republicans the heat and blame for nothing getting done.

What's the worst that could happen for him then? Democrats lose the House come November and the San Francisco Treat is forced to hand the Speaker's gavel over to the GOP's John Boehner.

Which costs Obama absolutely nothing, since he's not on any ballot. She can be a real pain anyway, especially in person.

And -- oh look! -- that outcome would also conveniently set up Obama with someone in the other party to run against come 2012. What kind of change could Obama stand for that year if he and fellow Dems have been running the whole Washington show the whole first term?

Obama wouldn't be the first political chief executive to prefer facing at least one opposition party legislative chamber for strategic and bargaining reasons. Ask any of the governors he had over for dinner Sunday night.

Related items:

Approaching Obama's Day 400: What's happened to him?

Joe Biden: Iraq is one of Obama's "great achievements"

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Chuck Kennedy / White House; Associated Press.

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