Via Moe Lane, don’t get nervous. It’s an old clip, recorded on Inauguration Day 2009. The NRCC’s circulating it this week because Recchia’s running for Congress in New York’s 11th District, which broke only narrowly for O in 2012 and has Republican Michael Grimm (yes, that Michael Grimm) as its current rep. We’re a long way from “the Barack Obama dynasty” if a clip like this can be used as an attack ad in New York City.
It’s a nifty time capsule, though, of Democratic enthusiasm for Hopenchange. Makes me wonder: Where do you go as a party after you elect a messiah instead of a president and he lets everyone down? They thought they were getting a guy who, through his oratory, his pioneering racial progress, and his repudiation of virtually all things Bush, would bring about some sort of liberal deliverance for America. They ended up instead with Mr. Forty-Four Percent, whose post-partisan promise has now been reduced to mumbling about how he has a pen and a phone. What happens to a movement like that when it’s been disappointed? At the Weekly Standard, James Ceaser wonders:
A sect began to form, spreading from Miller’s home region in Eastern New York to New England and beyond. Millerism was born. The time was drawing nigh, Miller preached, when a dreadful cataclysm would occur, to be followed by a wondrous splendor: “The heavens appear, the great white throne is in sight, amazement fills the universe with awe.” Pressed by followers for an exact date—people wished to settle their affairs before going up to heaven—Miller, after some hesitation and a few unmet deadlines, settled on October 22, 1844. The fateful day came and then went without any visible sign of the Advent, leaving the Millerites disheartened and perplexed.
And what of the Great Disappointment of 2013? In the promiscuous blending of politics and culture that characterizes our age, the launch of the Obama campaign in 2007 marked the beginning of a politico-spiritual movement that promised a new beginning and a transformation of the nation. It was to be the “moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal . . . [when we] restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.” Faith in the leader knew no bounds. Obamaism spilled out from the college campuses and tony enclaves of Manhattan and San Francisco into the mass public to become first an American and then a worldwide phenomenon. The legion of believers included not only the youth in their T-shirts emblazoned with the silk-screen Obama image, but also many of the nation’s most experienced political observers. By early 2009, the five wise persons from Oslo had come bearing the gift of the Nobel Peace Prize. No date was fixed for the fulfillment of all the hopes and promises—extensions were continually asked for under the excuse that “change would never be easy”—but enough time had transpired by the end of 2013 for people to sense that the deadline had come and gone. Like October 22, 1844, the appointed time passed with no visible sign of the advent of a new era.
Just as Obama won in part by drawing a contrast in styles with Bush, Ceaser thinks the next president wins by reacting stylistically to O — no more messianism, just “a candidate in 2016 of steady disposition who has a track record of competently handling the public’s affairs.” Exactly right, I think (advantage: Scott Walker?), which is yet another reason why Hillary’s so formidable. She really doesn’t have any meaningful track record of competence — name one major accomplishment, I dare you — but she’s widely perceived that way, partly because of her intelligence and partly because Bill can point to a long run of economic prosperity on his watch. In any case, the meaningful stylistic contrast between Hillary and Obama isn’t between competence and incompetence, it’s between cynicism and idealism. America rolled the dice on the charismatic redeemer and didn’t get much for it. Now they’ll be tempted to roll the dice on the old hand who knows how to get things done. Lefties will still pine for another prophet in the Obama mold like Elizabeth Warren but a serious groundswell for her would feel ridiculous this time. (“We’re going to do this again?“) They could afford to gamble in 2008, knowing that eight years of being out of power improved their chances of winning the White House. They can’t gamble in 2016 after holding power for eight years themselves. Hillary’s even got a small element of messianism to her own candidacy since, of course, she’d be the first woman president. No one expects any sort of New Golden Age from a second Clinton presidency but any Democrats who are lukewarm about turning to cynicism this time can console themselves with the fact that Hillary will be making history too.
Just don’t expect tools like this to be babbling about the “Hillary Clinton dynasty” come 2017. Even a Democrat would cringe at the thought of that.