The Broken Promise of Barack Obama
If history holds, President Obama’s second term will be marked by fewer legislative achievements, more gridlock, and more contentious ideological division than his first. It is hard to see how this is possible. But I suspect we’ll soon find that it is inevitable. It’s because of the divide between the leader he promised us he would be, and the politician he actually is.
The ongoing debate over understanding Obama as a politician has moved into odd territory over the past few years – the extremes between being cast as a lightbringer, healer of the planet, solver of all our racial woes, and on the other as a devious socialist bent on national ruin. All this attention gives the man, from my perspective, too much credit for being interesting. He is not all that complicated. The key to understanding Obama from my perspective is the traditional lens of urban Democratic machine politics – an approach bent on bending your foes into caricatures of themselves and organizing your own community into a political blunt instrument to wield at whim…
…Obama accepted the presidency four years ago as someone for whom the hopes of the nation were wrapped up in healing the wounds of the Bush era. Today he accepts it as a self-branded visionary who has revealed himself at heart to be a pedestrian partisan who wants to use the love and affection of his loyal supporters to crush his opponents and their constituencies. This is the essential broken promise of Obama’s presidency and his entire political career. He is not a technocratic wonk or a healer of planets or public squares. The healing he seeks is false talk of goodwill and charity after his opponents have been thoroughly defeated, just as the policy he seeks is the consolidation and cultivation of power. He has four more years to engage in his brand of political rule now – and at the end of it, I suspect we will look back on eight long years full of strife, when little was achieved for a nation where e pluribus unum no longer applies.