This cultural gulf, between Mr. Jobs’s America and the one our political leaders inhabit, is largely generational, and it goes long way toward explaining the enthusiasm among younger voters for Barack Obama in 2008. Mr. Obama’s campaign, conceived outside the party establishment and built on a platform of online membership, felt like a high-tech reimagining of politics. It seemed to presage an age of government that could champion both individuality and community, a government that made programs more responsive and flexible without eroding our sense of shared responsibility.
It’s safe to say that Mr. Obama no longer inspires much of that, at least partly because whatever more futuristic governing vision he might have had ran smack into economic realities and into the orthodoxies of both parties’ aging establishments. Three years later, he’s sounding a lot more like a conventional Democrat running for re-election and much less like a political innovator.
But generations will, inevitably, turn over, and Americans who grew up using Steve Jobs’s gizmos and apps will ultimately inherit a governing culture that feels dated and stifling. Perhaps then Mr. Jobs’s contributions to the American culture will at last reach the city where his Apple logo has become so visible, inspiring a government to try to think a little bit different, too.