It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
In the summer of 2008, Barack Obama was hailed as the healer who would redeem a barren time. (See “Obama, Shaman,” Summer 2008.) He “isn’t really one of us,” journalist Mark Morford opined in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Not in the normal way, anyway. Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet.”
Yet when, in January, the 44th president made his way through the Capitol to witness the inauguration of his successor, even those on his side could not disguise a sense of letdown. In The New Yorker, George Packer lamented Obama’s “difficulty in sustaining public support for his program and his party.” Slate’s Jacob Weisberg conceded that Obama’s “inability to produce any durable consensus must count as a tremendous disappointment.” Harvard’s Stephen Walt went so far as to say that Obama’s presidency, for all its promise, was a “tragedy.”
The rest of the country was no less ambivalent. Polls showed Obama to be personally popular as he left office; but at the same time, the Associated Press reported, more Americans felt that his eight years in power had “divided the country” than felt that they had “brought people together.” The result, as Obama departed the White House, was that “just 27 percent see the U.S. as more united as a result of his presidency.”
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