What parting gift do you get for a man who chose to deliver his farewell address before a giant cheering crowd in Chicago instead of alone in the Oval Office, as his predecessors did? Simple: You get him the thing he loves most.
Ah, stuff like this takes me back. Remember the “O” hand salute that his most hardcore cultists tried to get going in the summer of 2008? That was one of the few elements of Obamamania that was too goofy to catch on even among the left. I hope this one has better luck. It’d be amusing to see random people pausing on the street, at work, in movie theaters, etc, on Thursday night in one final act of worship for the Lightbringer.
Davis, a 29-year-old attorney in New York City, would mention her plans casually to friends. She persuaded a few to join her in Washington on Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration, to stand outside the president’s home and clap. After Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in July, Davis decided to make a formal event page on Facebook. She figured a dozen or so like-minded friends might sign up.
She went to bed that night and when she woke up less than eight hours later, 500 people had clicked that they planned to attend and another 700 marked that they were interested. In the coming days and weeks, the number grew incrementally, easily getting into the thousands. Then, when Trump won, interest spiked. By the Friday after Election Day, another 60,000 people said they were either going or wanted to…
Unable to secure space big enough to meet demand, they reserved indoor space at the Blind Whino, an arts club two and a half miles from the White House. It can hold around 600 people. Tickets to the event sold out in less than a week.
It’s now a multi-hour party, with music and food, and at 7 p.m. the crowd will stand together and applaud for the outgoing president. The women hope people all over the country, and even the world, whether in their offices or in their living rooms or out with friends, will also stand at that time and clap. They’re hoping thousands stream it live.
They wanted to gather en masse in the Ellipse near the White House but “ultimately Trump’s inaugural committee didn’t relinquish use of the federal land, Davis said.” This town’s only big enough for one cult of personality at a time, people.
The most interesting detail is how interest in the applause stunt exploded only after Trump’s victory. The charitable read on that is that the election reminded Obama fans in a stark new way that his presidency will end soon, triggering support for some sort of farewell ritual. By that logic, the numbers would have soared even if Hillary had won. The less charitable view is that the farewell to O is less about appreciating Obama in isolation than appreciating him in contrast to Trump. The same thing seems to have been happening for months with his national job approval: Starting in June, when the race between Trump and Clinton was set, Obama’s rating has climbed steadily with only an occasional blip. On June 2nd he was at 48.9/47.5 in the RCP average. Today he’s at 54.1/41.2 despite having done next to nothing policy-wise over the past eight months and presided over the near-total destruction of his party in November. Rasmussen’s latest measure of his approval rating has him at 60/38(!); Gallup, by contrast, his Trump’s approval during the transition at 44/51, easily the lowest of the last four presidents. If you’re a Democrat who was saddled with Crooked Hillary as nominee and now Trump as president, go figure that you might feel nostalgic for Obama.
More than anything, though, I think holding a big clap-out for Obama is a sign of his fans anticipating the nascent war over his legacy to come on the left. There’s no way to escape how badly diminished the party has been nationally as he leaves office. Progressive historians will give him his due as the first black president and as someone whose instincts were soundly liberal on most things, but they’ll end up indicting him for being too right-wing on foreign policy and for failing to cement durable domestic policy gains when he had total control of Congress. You can’t be far enough left to satisfy the liberal intelligentsia, and Obama is no exception. The people who love him are already in an argument with his left-wing critics over whether his presidency was a success or a failure. Stunts like the “clap out” are, in a way, just a means of asserting their side of the argument.