Obama’s 2008 campaign scarcely deserves to be called a “cause.” It was more a cult of personality. “His entire political persona is an ingeniously crafted human cipher, a man without race, ideology, geographic allegiances, or, indeed, sharp edges of any kind,” observed Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi in 2007. “As far as political positioning goes, his strategy seems to be to appear as a sort of ideological Universalist, one who spends a great deal of rhetorical energy showing that he recognizes the validity of all points of view.”
His slogans were vapid even by the standards of political sloganeering: “Yes, we can.” “Hope and change.” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” He was often called a “rock star”–a celeb, not a cause. It’s as if the Beatles came to America in 1964 to run for president rather than to sell records, and got elected on slogans like “Let it be,” “Please please me” and “I want to hold your hand.” Half a century later, the Beatles’ tunes have an enduring appeal to their once-youthful, now-elderly fans. Had they been forced to face the exigencies of governing, it’s unlikely a Lennon-McCartney administration would be remembered much more fondly than Johnson-Humphrey is.
Obama might have made a serviceably good president had he proved to be administratively competent and ideologically modest instead of the other way around. His personality-based campaign of 2008 diverted attention from his ideological ambitiousness, which expressed itself most forcefully in the enactment of ObamaCare. But while “health-care reform” in the abstract can be characterized as having been a “cause,” what Americans, and especially young Americans, are rejecting now is something different: a product, one that is both shoddy and overpriced.