In 2008, with the whole “hope and change” narrative – not to mention his youthful good looks and energy – Obama was situated somewhere between Jesus Christ and Rock Star in our collective unconscious. But now look at him. After four sobering years of economic crisis and an Arab Spring that just won’t quit, that increasingly-visible graying of the hair above his ears is symbolic. The President has aged, matured, and – like the rest of us parents – seems both wiser and wearier as a result.
It’s evident in the way that he speaks to us. As I’ve watch the presidential debates with my own kids, I’ve been struck by how parental he sounds. Particularly in the third and final debate, where the president could barely mask his disdain for Mitt Romney’s less-than-up-to-date grasp of our military, many pundits – including my colleague, Melinda Henneberger – saw his tone as patronizing, and wondered whether it wouldn’t alienate undecided women voters in particular.
Patronizing? Perhaps. But isn’t that what parents do? They tell us what’s good for us in an “eat your spinach” sort of way and get exasperated, at times, when we just don’t “get it.” And the most annoying part of that schtick, as we all know, is that they’re often right.