Political Hay

Did Liberals Choose the Wrong Messiah?

In 2008, Democrats were looking for the Chosen One. Now many wish they'd settled for the Devil in the pants suit.

By 8.23.11

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When Barack Obama was elected President of the United States on November 4, 2008, liberals were literally dancing in the streets. The Anointed One was going to move into the White House to excise the demons cast by the big, bad George W. Bush and bring about a New America. For liberals, it was as if The Messiah had finally arrived.

Anticipating that Obama's ascendancy would come to pass, a few days before the election I began writing a poem which I planned to read at the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, Massachusetts the night after the election. Needless to say, when I arrived at the Cantab on the appointed evening its patrons were overjoyed, and the House DJ was playing re-mixes of Obama's speeches.

Spirits needed to be dampened. This parade required some precipitation. I accomplished my objective by reading my poem entitled, "The Messiah Has Not Come." It began:

So the Messiah has triumphed
What have we really gained
Besides opiates of hope and change
That can only mask the pain

He tells us, "Yes we can,"
Knowing full well we can't
Ever make a perfect world
No matter how loudly we chant

I did not bet on the dark horse
You brand me with a scarlet letter
Should you call me a racist
I say you'll have to do better…

It was not what this audience of young leftists wanted to hear. Naturally, many took issue with my referring to Obama as a "dark horse" in the poem, and did not hesitate to call me a racist. Yet you would have thought that a room full of English majors would have understood that a dark horse means a long shot. After all, a year earlier, conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton would have been the Democrats' nominee. But Hillary's early support for the Iraq War made her an untenable option amongst liberals, young and old.

Now, nearly a thousand days into the Obama presidency, liberals have re-embraced Hillary. Last week, Leslie Bennetts of the Daily Beast described how many of Obama's supporters had become disenchanted with his ineffectual leadership and how Hillary's supporters had become emboldened to say, "We told you so." Bennetts quotes Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, who recently wrote an open letter to Clinton begging her to challenge Obama. Dickinson perhaps best sums up how many liberals have soured on Obama:

If I heard it once this last week, I heard it a thousand times: You were duped by Obama's rhetoric -- the whole "hopey-changey" thing. And you wanted to be part of history, too -- to help break down the ultimate racial barrier. That’s OK. We were all young once. But now it's time to elect someone who can play hardball, who understands how to be ruthless, who will be a real ... uh ... tough negotiator in office. There won’t be any debate about Hillary's, er, "man-package."

We were all young once indeed. But the young usually have to learn things the hard way and so it is with Obama.

Yet not all liberals have waxed romantic on Hillary. In the New York Times Magazine, Rebecca Traister made the case "that Hillary Clinton's presidency would probably not have looked so different from Obama's." This is probably true. Chances are Hillary would have engaged in the same kind of deficit spending, which would have resulted in the same credit rating downgrade and incurred the same enmity of the Tea Party. (Curiously, Traister questions if the Tea Party would have ever formed had Hillary been President.) Traister observes, "There simply was never going to be a liberal messiah whose powers could transcend the limits set by a democracy this packed with regressive obstructionists." Traister's "regressive obstructionist" comment notwithstanding, liberals erred in casting Obama as someone from beyond this sphere who could transform America's future instead of a mere politician from Chicago who voted "present."

While conservatives are presently disagreeing amongst ourselves as to which Republican is best suited to unseat President Obama next year, we do agree on one thing: If a Republican becomes the President of the United States, he or she will not be mistaken for The Messiah. This isn't to say that the next Republican President cannot provide leadership and command respect in both words and deeds. But conservatives understand that no matter how much power is vested in one person he or she is still but one person. There will be events, whether caused by man or by nature, which are beyond the control of even the President.

The best the President can do is respond to such challenges in a way that inspires the confidence of the American people. While the President can certainly embark on new paths, the President must be humble enough to recognize that he or she cannot move mountains -- much less calm oceans. President Obama did not possess the humility necessary to understand this concept before entering office, nor does he now possess the humility to accept responsibility for his words and deeds.

Of course, we cannot discount the possibility President Obama will be re-elected in 2012. But if he is, it won't be because he is The Messiah here to bring us hope and change. Rather, it will be because he is the Devil we know.

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.