We keep seeing reports about how Obama’s approval ratings are “hovering near his all-time lows,” but at this point in his presidency, do low numbers really mean that much?

The latest polls show that only 43% now consider him a strong leader. Only? That 43% figure apparently represents the number of Americans who don’t read the news, don’t care, and/or are so firmly planted in the Democratic camp that nothing could dislodge them. It is not an encouraging statistic, because it should be in single digits, but overall it’s not terribly significant from a governing standpoint.

Why would Obama care about his rating? He will never run for office again (if the 22nd Amendment holds up,) and although he doesn’t enjoy disapproval—he’d much prefer the wild adulation he’s accustomed to—he can take it, because both his narcissism and his staff (and the perks of his office, like vacations and golf) shield him from it. The only reason he would care about this level of disapproval is if it makes it harder for him to do what he wants to do in his next two and a half years of office.

Disapproval would make it harder for Obama to do things, if in fact he was making any attempt to cater to the wishes of the American people, or at least to cajole and fool them into thinking he is. But for Obama, bucking the majority opinion on a number of fronts, both foreign and domestic, is nothing new. It’s actually a hallmark of his presidency, Obamacare being one of the earliest and most prominent examples. The bill was never popular, but that never mattered to him or his Democratic leaders in Congress: it was going to be happen anyway, by hook or by crook. Same with amnesty, same with whatever else he might have in mind.

The dilemma for Obama is how to present it to the American people in such a way that they don’t elect a Congress in 2014 that is so overwhelmingly Republican that it would block his agenda. Even if that were to happen, though, Obama figures he can get around such a Congress through executive action. You can bet he has a team of lawyers working hard to figure out the best way to do that without running afoul of the Supreme Court.

As a check on Obama, there’s always the power of Congress to impeach and convict (impeachment is nothing without conviction), which would depend on how many votes there would be for conviction in the Senate. And that’s another reason Obama might be paying at least a tiny bit of lip service to soothing the American people prior to that 2014 election. Even then, for conviction in the Senate a two-thirds (67) vote would be necessary.

It is certainly theoretically possible for there to be enough votes in the Senate as a result of the 2014 election to convict Obama, although it is highly unlikely. Currently there are 45 Republicans in the Senate, with 53 Democrats and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats, making a grand total of 55 for the Democrats.

However, 21 Democratic Senate seats are up for grabs in 2014, as opposed to 15 Republican ones. If the impossible were to happen and Republicans won all of the contested Democratic seats and lost none of their own, Republicans would still have only 66 Senate seats, and would need one Democrat to cross over and join them in order to convict.

But of course, there is almost no chance of such a sweep happening in the first place. Any effort to impeach and convict Obama, even if Republicans gain a majority that’s electorally realistic, would require significantly more Democratic crossover votes than one. It is hard to imagine a scenario where enough Democrats would be willing to do that.

The last direct power the American people had over Obama was the 2012 election, and they blew it. Now they are stuck, and Obama knows it, which gives him freedom as defined in the song “Me and Bobby McGee”: nothin’ left to lose.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]