Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, May 8, 2012
“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy says in “The Wizard of Oz.” Barack Obama might have had the same sensation this weekend when, in his first official campaign event at the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State, Obama spoke to a crowd of 14,000 in a center that fits 20,000. “There were,” according to the Toledo Blade, “a lot of empty seats.” This happened despite the fact that Obama volunteers worked feverishly to gin up a crowd.
“Axelrod, I have a feeling we’re not in 2008 anymore,” Obama might have thought.
To add insult to injury, the New York Times (as Jonathan points out here) reported on the opening event for Obama this way: “At times, the rallies had the feeling of a concert by an aging rock star: a few supporters were wearing faded ‘Hope’ and Obama 2008 T-shirts, and cheers went up when the president told people to tell their friends that this campaign was ‘still about hope’ and ‘still about change.’”
For a president whose only selling point these days is “cool” — and who is used to campaigning surrounded by faux Greek columns and adoring fans and cult-like music videos– this must come as quite a shock to the system. Perhaps the president, desperate to recapture a moment that is forever gone, can relate to the lyrics of a genuine aging rock star, Bruce Springsteen:
Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
and I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days.
Barack Obama — with no record he can defend and no governing vision he can describe — may soon be left with nothing but boring stories of glory days.