Americans voted for Barack Obama in 2008 despite, not because of, his most partisan voting record in the Senate. They were once willing to look past his earlier dubious associations with abject anti-Semites such as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, former terrorists like Bill Ayers, and unhinged characters such as Father Pfleger. They also averted their eyes from Obama’s often quite offensive commentary, in his autobiography and during the 2008 campaign (e.g., “typical white person” and “they cling to…” speech).
Instead, voters were tired of the Iraq War (which was over for all practical purposes by the time of the November 2008 election).
They were, of course, terrified by the September 2008 financial meltdown (which had been mostly stabilized four months later by the time of the inauguration) and irate at the kid-gloves treatment accorded often conniving banks and investors.
They were convinced that Obama might be healing and transformative as the first African-American president, supposedly only slightly to the left of a far steadier and more qualified Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell. And half the Democrats were already becoming sick of Hillary Clinton once they became reacquainted with her on the 2008 primary-campaign trail.
As is typical of American politics, voters in 2008 also wanted to change the party in power after it had been in the lead for eight years, and the lame-duck president fell out of favor. Voters certainly were underwhelmed by an uninspiring, herky-jerky, mostly incompetent John McCain campaign, notable for his “that’s not who we are” comments and his willingness to “lose nobly.”
Such was the naïve dream.
The reality by 2013 was that voters got an increasing hard-core liberal-progressive revolution that, after Obama’s 2012 reelection, increasingly polarized America over the reach of the federal government, immigration, and race. Scandals at the DOJ and IRS were often political in nature. By summer 2016, the Obama administration had weaponized the intelligence agencies and his own justice department to such a degree that unleashed bureaucrats and appointees actively sought to intervene in a presidential campaign to undermine the opposition candidate and to lay the foundation for sabotaging the incoming president’s transition and administration.
An overregulated economy stagnated, requiring ever more federal intervention and borrowing. Students on campuses lost constitutional protections, especially under the First and Fifth Amendments, as universities finalized their long transformation into indoctrination centers. Obama recalibrated American foreign policy in neutralist fashion, and in a way that made Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia more suspect than Iran, Turkey, or Cuba.
Culturally, diversity replaced affirmative action, on the principle that formerly documented grievances or class status no longer mattered, at least compared with skin color. The real divide was now between a non-white, far greater collective that harbored purported grievances against a reconstituted and much smaller white majority and its “privilege and “supremacy.” When feminists and gays were included in the diverse intersectional bloc of Asians, Latinos, blacks, and immigrants, a supposed new majority of “woke” Americans now would have electoral control over a culpable and soon to become irrelevant minority. The “content of our character” and all that became “inoperative.”
All this was largely the legacy of an otherwise mostly unsuccessful Obama administration whose record was one of massive debt, an ossified economy, decreased sovereignty, increased ethnic and racial tensions, and a confused foreign policy perceived abroad as apologetic and contrite, and therefore useful to rivals and enemies.
The Socialist-Progressive Takeover
Yet Obama had hit on something in his move to the hard left. After he left office, unapologetic leftists were less coy (the old smear of “socialist” was now a term of endearment) and began to extinguish what little was left of Bill Clinton’s old, occasionally moderate Democratic party.
The reelection of Obama had convinced progressives that he had discovered electoral magic: record voter registration, turnout, and block voting of “minorities” that could overcome the old Perot, Reagan Democrat, silent majority, and tea-party dinosaurs in the critical swing states. This chemistry, they thought, would be inherently transferrable even to multimillionaire white establishmentarians like Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden (but only if they were reeducated and thus made the necessary confessionals about their own white privilege and shared disdain for “deplorables” and “the dregs of society”).
Suddenly, everything seemed possible as woke activists, à la French Revolution, accelerated the possible into the already passé.