Last week, America got some good news in the form of a jobs report that showed, among other things, a dip in the unemployment rate to 5.9%, the first time it has been below 6% since July of 2008. In remarks at an Indiana steel plant on Friday, President Obama took a bit of a victory lap, while still giving most of the credit to the American people:
If Friday’s long-awaited dip in unemployment below 6% sounded a little bit familiar to you, that’s because it was the exact benchmark that Republican presidential candidate and choice of White America Mitt Romney laid down for his own hypothetical presidency. Obama achieved that goal within 21 months of his second term, but as one Twitter user pointed out, Romney promised that pie-in-the-sky dream on an entirely different timetable:
I can’t possibly predict precisely what the unemployment rate would be at the end of one year. I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we put in place, we get the unemployment rate down to 6%, or perhaps a little lower.
Wow, so Obama has actually beaten Mitt Romney, president-elect of White America, by more than half. That hasn’t stopped Republicans from bitching about it anyway, but that is to be expected. The reason I bring up Romney’s status as the overwhelming choice of White America is because this result sets up an illustrative test of another expectation.
In a country that is this deeply in denial about race, it is nearly impossible to convince (white) Americans that anything has to do with race. Throughout his presidency, Obama’s approval ratings have not matched public opinion regarding his policies, and aside from a brief “Yay! We all have a black friend now!” honeymoon, have consistently struggled to stay above 50% (he hasn’t been above 50% since last May). Americans loved everything about Obamacare, but hated Obamacare. They were on his side during the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, gun control, immigration, taxes, withdrawing from Iraq, drawing down in Afghanistan, the minimum wage, and the list goes on. Currently, they approve of every action he’s taking against ISIS, by wide margins, yet still, for some reason, his approval ratings just won’t budge.
Some of this is attributable to poor journalism (particularly with Obamacare), and some of it is just tough to make apples-to-apples comparisons with when it comes to past presidents. But the unemployment rate is an objectively measurable thing, one which featured heavily in the election, and in the minds of voters. If Americans can’t get behind a War President with whom they completely agree, surely this news will move that approval rating up. If 59% of white people voted for a four-year crawl to 5.9%, surely they’ll be much happier, much more approving, of a president who did it in less than half that time.
If not, though, then you can explain to me how this isn’t another example of the 21st century version of the Jackie Robinson Effect, “Twice as good to get half.” Hell, Obama is more than twice as good, and he’s only getting 42%.