The Obama era in American politics began almost exactly eight years ago in Boston, when a youthful Senate candidate’s soaring speech to the Democratic National Convention stole the show from the actual Democratic nominee.
It ended, to all intents and purposes, last Thursday night in Charlotte, when a weary-seeming incumbent delivered perhaps the fourth-best major address at his own convention — a plodding, hectoring speech that tacitly acknowledged that this White House is out of ideas, out of options and no longer the master of its fate…
[W]e are not in the late 1990s anymore. There is nothing remotely “normal” about the unemployment rate we’re enduring, or the long-term deficits we face, or the fact that the American birthrate has dropped below replacement level over the last five years. Or alternatively, if this is the new normal, then it’s a normalcy that both citizens and politicians should aspire to swiftly leave behind…
But whatever happens in November, the president’s own words have given us fair warning: We face a continuing crisis, and the liberalism of Barack Obama is no longer equal to the task.
Four years later the shooting liberal star, as we called him then, has come down to earth. What should have been a buoyant recovery coming out of a deep recession was lackluster to start and has grown weaker. The partisanship he claimed to want to dampen has become more fierce. The middle-class incomes he sought to lift have fallen. These results aren’t bad luck or the lingering effects of a crash four years ago. They flow directly from his “transforming” purposes.
To our mind, two events amid hundreds stand out as defining President Obama’s first term. The first is his go-for-broke pursuit of progressive social legislation instead of focusing on economic recovery. The second is his refusal to strike a budget deal with Speaker John Boehner in 2011. Both reveal a President more bent on transforming America than addressing the needs of our time…
So now Mr. Obama is seeking a second term by asking the voters to give him more time to finish the job he started. But what job is that?
[I]f there is a unifying idea behind this basket of aspirations, I missed it. I hear all the time, but don’t really know for sure, that the mythical undecided voters that both campaigns chase are not particularly ideological — if they were, they would have already decided between the candidates — and that they clamor for these sorts of statements that include specific and quantifiable goals.
But the list leaves a lot to wonder about. Does Obama have a new plan for addressing climate change? Beats me. (He did say, “And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax.” But he didn’t actually offer a real proposal to do anything to stop climate change—nothing like a carbon tax or cap and trade. In fact, he talked about increasing oil production and other sources of carbon pollution.) Will he pursue comprehensive immigration reform in the next session of Congress? He didn’t say. When he faces the fiscal cliff, which would be the first and possibly the most consequential issue of his potential second term, how will he reform Medicare and restructure the tax code? Again, the details were absent last night.
The situation facing Romney is hard for some Republicans to comprehend. They didn’t buy Obama’s bill of goods in the first place and find it hard to sympathize with anyone who did. But there are millions of people who voted for Obama who are not only disappointed in him but have come to the conclusion that he does not deserve to be re-elected. The problem for Romney is they might still be persuaded to vote for the president. Making them comfortable with the idea of leaving Obama is Romney’s job.
Romney campaign advisers are very familiar with the type. They do polling, they do focus groups and they see the phenomenon everywhere. Says campaign pollster Neil Newhouse: “These voters are my mother-in-law. She’s a soft Republican and voted with pride for Barack Obama in terms of what it meant for the country. And now, every time she talks to me, she’s more than disappointed. She’s frustrated. She’s upset. She thought she was voting for a transformational leader and feels like we got just another politician.” You can bet Newhouse and the Romney campaign are not basing their strategy on one mother-in-law. They’re undoubtedly seeing the same thing all the time in their research.
The important thing for Romney, aides believe, is not to rub the voters’ noses in their decision from four years ago. Don’t bash Obama, don’t even harp on how he’s not up to the job — that carries the implication that they should have known that when they voted for him. Just focus on the point that his policies have not made things better. “You’ve got to be careful in terms of how you talk about the president,” says a top Romney campaign aide. “It’s his policies and performance voters are concerned about — that’s the focus.”
“So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me,” President Obama explained. “It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change.”
We were the change!
We were the change? Us?…
It’s depressing to look back and remember what soaring hopes we had for ourselves only four years ago. Did we overdo it with the Greek columns? Sheesh, a million people showed up for our inauguration. Now we brag when we break 10,000.
What a drag to realize that Hillary was right: big rallies and pretty words don’t always get you where you want to go. Who knew that Eric Cantor wouldn’t instantly swoon at the sound of our voice or the sight of our smile?…
He gave it to us straight: It’s not me, it’s you.
Last night the president used rhetorical flourishes to say that his election was never about him, but “you.” As in, EVERYONE. So when Obama said that “you” are the reason people have a better future ahead of them, Stewart suspected that the president was trying to push all the responsibility on the people so then he could blame them for “the shitty stuff that hasn’t been done.”
Stewart concluded by remarking that the American people need to be grounded, and “maybe the only person who could have done it was the one who put all that air under our feet in the first place.”