Why Obama's rhetoric fails

But when the “hope” and “change” campaign gave way to the frustrating reality that Washington’s other politicians wouldn’t automatically bend to Obama’s will (although an unnervingly large amount of them did, and many from the Republican aisle), the American people noticed. Entering office, Obama’s approval rating was nearly 70 percent; not even a year later, his numbers sank below 50 percent.

I suspect this has made American ears immune to the actual power of grandiose language. In 2008, this sort of oratory moved the electoral needle; in 2016, an understandable measure of cynicism has crept in. Consider the Wilsonian stupor of last year’s state of the union: “America, for all that we have endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong. At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.”

There is much to be said for projecting political optimism. Reagan’s “morning in America” ad remains a watershed in political messaging. But can anyone seriously argue that Obama’s description above comes anywhere close to accurately depicting America heading into 2015? The “shadow of crisis has passed”?

The language is beautiful, certainly, but it describes a different world.