The key question here is the same as it always is in politics: Who’s “we”?
Asked by Oprah Winfrey if her husband’s administration had lived up to its promise of hope, the first lady said yes, adding: “Because we feel the difference now. Now we’re feeling what not having hope feels like. Hope is necessary.”
She added: “And Barack didn’t talk about hope because he thought it was a nice slogan to get votes. He and I and so many believe ‘what else do you have if you don’t have hope? What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?’”
An insight into hope and the great “we” from the national exit poll last month:
Her husband, a Democrat, was the “change” candidate in 2008. Not this time. Another data point:
After eight years of Obama, the public is split nearly two to one in believing that the country’s on the wrong track. The exit poll also asked people if they thought life for the next generation of Americans would be better than, worse than, or about the same as it is for theirs. The split was 37/33/25. The “hope” presidency couldn’t crack 40 percent on a basic question about your kids’ lives being better than yours. And that’s not a bad result by Obama standards: Earlier this year, when Pew asked the same question, they got a split of 25/49/19. You could make a compelling argument that the reason Clinton lost is because “we” already know what not having hope feels like and voted accordingly.
Check out the comparison she makes in the middle here, with Obama as the calm parent trying to put the childlike public at ease after it bangs its head on the table. Laying aside the amazing condescension of that analogy, is that the White House’s view of why Obama hasn’t done squat, apparently, to punish Russia for its campaign hackings? Some of us childlike voters would prefer a president who bangs Putin’s head on the table when he messes with America, not a chin-stroking paterfamilias assuring us that there’s nothing to get excited over. Looks like we’ll have to do without that for another four years, though.