The Democrats’ biggest problem this year is the failed economy that Barack Obama gives himself an “incomplete” on after four years in power. Their only way to overcome this is to somehow recapture the “hope and change” messianism that catapulted Obama to the presidency. In 2008, Obama wasn’t merely the Democratic alternative to the Republicans. He was the embodiment of the nation’s hopes for itself. His election was an intrinsic achievement for every voter since it reversed a legacy of racism and conferred a certain honor on everyone who took part in his elevation. More than that, he was a put forward as a near godlike figure that was above partisan politics.
Inevitably, the reality of Barack Obama collided with the messianism. Four years later, there is a noticeable drop in enthusiasm among the young voters and others who created the Obama surge. How could it be otherwise when the president’s conduct in office has been anything but post-partisan? Four years of massive government spending, liberal patent nostrums and business as usual have made his feet of clay all too apparent.
The Democrats have sought to counter this harsh dose of reality by stoking the partisan juices of their base with a first night of their convention that ignored the political center and stuck to efforts to appeal to the left. That meant a mantra of support for ObamaCare, gay marriage and abortion even though these positions are not only extreme but of doubtful utility in winning swing states where independents are key. But most of all they seemed desperate to rekindle the Obama worship that allowed their candidate to stride out in front of his 2008 convention amid fake Greek columns and promise to turn back the oceans and not be laughed out of the stadium.
That meant not just a routine pledge of allegiance to the president’s re-election from each speaker but a willingness to treat Obama as a magical figure. When keynote speaker Julian Castro acknowledged the power of individualism that Republicans celebrated last week with their “We built it” slogan, he countered on saying that such success can only be multiplied through the intercession of the godlike president.
First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the best speech of the evening for the Democrats but her moving stories of the first family were not meant to humanize Barack Obama as Ann Romney’s did for her husband Mitt but to do the opposite. Michelle’s husband was portrayed as not so much an ordinary guy but as a superhuman creature that cares for all. She strained credulity by claiming he listens to all and cares nothing for partisan labels — an assertion that bore no resemblance to the arrogant man Congressional Republicans have tried unsuccessfully to deal with — but it was all part of an effort to go back to the stained glass image that was crafted for Barack Obama in 2008.
The incessant flow of Obama worship played well in a hall full of party zealots. The Democrats will also have the advantage of a liberal mainstream media that assisted in the creation of that false image four years ago and may be willing to go back into the tank for the Democrat. But getting the rest of the country to buy back into the baloney and to go back to swooning over the president is a more difficult task. The Democrats had a successful night in Charlotte but it will take more than a nightlong worship service to convince a majority of Americans that the “incomplete” president is still the god of hope and change they once adored.