They have a dream. Not the dream Martin Luther King Jr. had of post-racial harmony, but a more personal dream of a less sweeping nature: that the fierce, hot flame of Obama-mania that ran from late 2008 through the spring a year later is not dead, only resting, and is ready and able to surge once again.
Since mid-2009, when the glow began fading, there has been a tangible longing for the campaign and its aftermath, when people fainted at rallies and euphoria reigned. A video made by the re-election team features a boy who said Inauguration Day 2009 was his best birthday ever, that he had a cake for himself and the president.
Another has a boy saying he was too young to vote in the ’08 election, but has been counting the days ever since. A likely story.
“Obama seeks to be BMOC once more,” the Washington Post said a month ago, detailing meetings of aides with largely indifferent or skeptical students.
Obama’s support with the young has slipped 20 points, along with similar drops among independents and Hispanic voters. Attempts to strike sparks — or to revive them — have been unavailing. The passion is over. The fire is out.
This is too bad, as the hope and change theme has also expired. There has been too much change in all the wrong ways for a whole lot of people; and for some others, not nearly enough. There’s been change in the deficit (it’s tripled), change in the size of the state (it has expanded), change in our wars (we now have three of them), and change in the way we may be about to get health care, which makes swing voters queasy.
On the other hand, for the pacifist base of the party, too much stayed the same. Guantanamo Bay is still open, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried in it shortly. Obama expanded and deepened the war in Afghanistan, hasn’t ended the war in Iraq, and may have begun what looks like a third war in Libya.
Add the Bush tax cuts, which Obama extended, and it looks to the left wing as if Bush never left. Try to win back the left with the social agenda he passed and this will enrage the swing voters, in shock from the spending, who distrust his health plan and want to repeal it.
Try to say he kept us safe — as did Bush — and he enrages the left by using Bush tactics. Talk about war, and his one-foot-in tactics irritate everyone — the hawks, who want more commitment; the centrists, who don’t like getting in wars or losing them, either; and the base of his party, which campaigned for him as the most anti-war candidate.
Obama’s campaign in 2008 was an air-filled soufflé of a moment. And soufflés don’t rise twice.
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”