If he loses, it will be a story of what might have been.
His rise to the presidency gave new meaning to the American dream. He vaulted onto the national stage with his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, acknowledging “that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.”
After barely two years in the U.S. Senate, Obama decided to seek his party’s nomination for president, taking on Democratic icon Hillary Clinton and winning. Then, running against Republican John McCain, Obama won the presidency as the first African-American to gain that office. It was the American dream lived out, an object lesson for every boy and girl.
Before his inauguration, this column observed that the challenges facing the president-elect were imposing and that how he dealt with them would test his mettle and his pledge of inclusive government. The point was made: “If he lives up to what he has talked about, if he receives good counsel from advisors with sound judgment, and if he moves toward a moderate, bipartisan approach – this story could have still another unexpected turn.”
However, after Obama took office, the promise of bipartisanship got trampled. His health care bill was rammed through the House late on a Sunday night in March 2010 with no Republican voting for it. John McCain warned that any chance of bipartisan legislation was killed for the rest of the year.
Things went from bad to worse in terms of partisan politics. There were oratorical moments when Obama sounded his campaign theme of bringing Americans together. He rose to the occasion in January, 2011, at a Tucson memorial service for six people killed and 13 wounded by a lone gunman; among them was U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In that speech, the president sought to quell the political finger-pointing and blame-gaming that almost inevitably follows such mindless massacres. He said:
“At a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds…. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility….We may not be able to stop all the evil in the world but I know that how we treat one another – that’s entirely up to us.”
Such moments were all too few and far between. The rhetoric faded from the president’s talk. Togetherness morphed into divisiveness.
And then came his no-holds-barred reelection campaign.