I voted for Barack Obama twice. He is my president, and I believe much of what he’s accomplished has been beneficial for the United States. The economy is soaring. The domestic automobile industry remains. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Universal health coverage has been largely a success. On and on. Many things.
And yet, I also consider Barack Obama to be the greatest political disappointment in modern history.
I truly do.
This does not mean I consider Obama to be the worst president in modern history. Quite the contrary—personally speaking, I rate him behind Bill Clinton and Lyndon Johnson, but ahead of the other post-JFK commanders in chief.
Still, he is a horrible disappointment. And here’s why …
I have never before witnessed what I witnessed in 2008. When Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency, it wasn’t merely a candidacy. No, it was a movement. There was something about the Illinois senator that moved and inspired people across racial, social, political lines. He was young and smart and energetic, and his motto (HOPE) spoke to us. We had endured so much of late—eight mostly terrible George W. Bush years, the repeated Clinton scandals—and here was true refreshment. Barack Obama was … different. Maybe he wasn’t one of us, but he sure as hell wasn’t one of them. He talked of big dreams and big expectations; of unity; of togetherness; of bringing America back. His rhetoric reminded many of Ronald Reagan, the theme of one nation regaining its status atop the world.
I believed him.
You believed him.
And, truth be told, I think Barack Obama believed Barack Obama. His optimism appeared to be genuine. He was green and, I suppose, somewhat naive. He believed Washington could be changed.
And he was, unambiguously, wrong.
Washington hasn’t changed. The Republicans did all they could to make Obama nothing more than a historic footnote. The Democrats (as they do) wavered when the president needed support on tough issues. Rugged talk on Gitmo and climate change turned into inaction. The health care reform that was initially described was severely watered down. Large donors still seemed to have special access. The administration was filled with leftovers from Washington past. The hope campaign of 2008 turned into the “It’s still pretty good” campaign of 2012. The excitement died. The fire smoldered.
Gradually, young people who fell in love with Barack Obama and believed he was different came to realize … meh. Just, meh. Their enthusiasm wasn’t rewarded with courageous action. Instead, it was met with OK results. Solid. Good-ish. Just … OK.
And that’s why, come Tuesday, the Democrats are about to be crushed. Because their followers and most loyal supporters no longer see the point of turning out in droves; of going door to door; of surrendering themselves to a movement.
Barack Obama was as good as it got.
And he’s just sorta fine.