Two years on from his historic election victory, US President Barack Obama is trying to recover his lost magic as defeat for the Democrats looms in the midterm elections. But he is no longer the man he used to be, and his window of opportunity has passed.
He wants everything to be as it was before. He wants it to be as innocent and passionate, as honest and boundless. He wants it to be as full of promises and the conviction that everything is possible in the Land of Opportunity. Because, as he told his supporters back then, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” It was a rallying cry so powerful and romantic it sounded like a line from a good song.
Today, Barack Obama is the first black president of the United States. Back then, in 2008, he was probably the best election campaigner of all time. And now he is on the campaign trail again. This fall he is speaking in Philadelphia, Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, spreading the message that “they” (the Republicans and their donors) want to rob “us” (open-minded, young Americans) of our future.
At the Crossroads
It is like a grown-up going back to the places of his youth: the public swimming pool where he learned to swim, the intersection where he had his first kiss. It’s a sentimental journey, and at the same time an admission that youth doesn’t last forever.
There are crossroads in every life, decisive moments. Afterwards, what was reality until a moment ago is just a memory, and the present has changed. The politician who once embodied a brave new alternative with his iconic slogan “Yes, we can” would probably love to be able to freeze frame the moment of his triumph as it was and hang on to the ease of those early, naive years. But that’s not possible. Political careers, like biographies, succeed or fail — but they do not stop.
President Obama, who has been in office for 21 months, has gone gray during his time in the White House. He has become even thinner and wirier than he already was. He is campaigning this October because he has to. He is campaigning on behalf of those Democratic candidates who still stand a chance in the midterm elections on Nov. 2.
If Obama is to have any chance of passing legislation in the next two years, his fellow Democrats must defend their majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. In the last two weeks before the elections, Obama must reverse all the trends and bad poll ratings. To do that, he needs to create the illusion that it is indeed possible to reclaim your youth and your dreams, and that mistakes can be corrected — even the one big mistake that changed everything.