From his first appearance on the national stage, his key-note speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama has cast himself a post-partisan figure who could transcend the polarized politics of the past dozen years or so. That image was central to his appeal in his 2008 bid for the White House — and likely caused many wavering centrist voters to shift their support to him in the campaign’s closing days.
They might not share his politics, but they did like him as a man, at least as the man he projected himself to be. He has not governed as he campaigned, first pushing a “stimulus” bill crafted by Democratic legislators — without Republican input — in the back rooms of Capitol Hill. When a Republican Senator questioned him about the bill, instead of meeting that challenge in a civil fashion, the Democrat retorted, “I won.”
This was the first of his many partisan retorts. And the partisan pugnacity that defined his presidency would define his reelection campaign. At least since August 2011, his campaign aides made clear that their reelection strategy would focus on destroying the then-likely (and now-current) Republican presidential nominee.
Obama is closing the campaign the same way he began it — on a negative note. Parts of his speeches sounds like they’ve been recycled from the 2008 campaign, as if he’s still running against George W. Bush, only he has sharpened his attacks. He attacks his opponent as a stand-in for the former president, strongly suggesting that, nearly four years after the Texas Republican left office, he’s still responsible for incomes which declined and deficits which increased under Obama’s watch.
And then yesterday, he asked his supporters to vote, not out of love for country but out of revenge.
“If Obama wins,” John Nolte writes, “I don’t know how he plans to govern after running the nastiest and most divisive presidential campaign in memory. He’s looked nothing like a president during this campaign and everything like a nasty, Chicago union thug.”
“Dividing Americans into groups and playing each against the other“, William A. Jacobson observes, “has been Obama’s modus operandi since the beginning of his political career. Resentment and envy are the key emotions.”
Maybe that’s why Obama’s crowds are so much smaller than they were four years ago. Resentment just don’t inspired as much as hope does.
Our nation is very divided now. And the incumbent president has exacerbated its division.