The idea of Obama

How do you deflate a myth? Criticizing Obama seems to me an insurmountable task, largely because of what he means for my generation. Getting rid of his legacy all of a sudden looks like getting rid of an old toy.

Obama is no ordinary politician – what happened at Grant Park on 4th November 2008 should suffice to explain it. True, I am not American. Polls indicate that the US public do not seem to understand either the health care or the finance reform. Obama aroused indignation when he pursued George H. Bush’s attempt to save Wall Street. Obama has, to put it bluntly, become a mystery to his own electorate.

It is too early to say with certainty what the result of the midterm elections will be. By the time you read this the world may have a clearer idea about what has happened to Obama’s vision. Until then, there is time for us to speculate. It seems to me that Obama is only partially responsible for the dramatic fall in consensus. Or, if you like, he has been only unconsciously responsible for it.  Should we blame him?

Yes, because he made some crucial mistakes which detached him from his public. The lack of an immediate response on the oil-spill crisis, the false promises on Guantanamo bay; – whatever happened to the “America, this is our time?” rhetoric?

No, because Obama’s leadership was, to a degree, doomed from the outset. His strategy was ambitious in scope: to encapsulate in his persona the idea of change. As the world woke up on 5th November, everyone thought he would be the one who would save everyone. Obama’s “change – yes, we can” was every match for McCain’s “country first”, but this choice led to unsatisfiable expectations. In a matter of weeks, an African-American senator rose from anonymity to global notoriety. By 4th November Obama was ranked alongside M. L. King, Malcolm X and Mahatma Ghandi. Change was what the world needed and what Obama promised, or better, what he himself was. His slogan was simple and appealed to many. It was his triumph and his own demise. Obama is no superhero. This, in 2008, no one understood.


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