Last night the president cast himself as a resilient truth teller. The reality is quite different.
Watching Barack Obama’s speech at the 2008 DNC in Denver, I doubt I could have imagined the kind of turmoil his presidency would incite. Almost everything has changed in the subsequent years, and yet his farewell speech to the nation was brimming with the same kind of haughty lecturing we got back then.
Obama loves to conflate progressivism with patriotism, pitting the forces of decency and empathy — his own — against the self-serving profiteers and meddling reactionaries who stand in the way. All of it is swathed in phony optimism.
The president’s central case for government’s existence rests on the notion of the state being society’s moral center, engine of prosperity, and arbiter of fairness. This has never been normal. Obama speaks of government as a theocrat might of church—and his fans return the favor by treating him like a pope. This was true in 2008. And it’s true now. Just check out liberal Twitterdom.
There was much to process, and many policy claims to debunk, but for me the most grating aspect of the address were the broader fictions Obama likes to repeat.
“When Congress is dysfunctional,” Obama explained, “we should draw our districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes.” For the president, a “dysfunctional” Congress means a Congress unwilling to pass progressive legislation. That is not the definition of dysfunctional, I’m afraid. Nor is it the definition of extreme.