Between Libya, the 47% moment and “binders of women” there’s much deliciousness to consider in the post-debate after-glow. No doubt about it, if President Obama was ever out of the game, he’s back in it. The enthusiasm gap has been closed, his backers are happy again, and Romney continues to be the gift that keeps on giving.
But now it’s time to pivot and wrap up the sale. Sure victory is within President Obama’s grasp if he concentrates on two things — makes two main appeals in these closing days.
A return to biography
There are two versions of the American Dream. In the first, we’re born into the wealthy elite like Mitt Romney. For most Americans (leaving aside that we’re all wealthy compared to the majority of the world), that only happens in dreams or the movies.
In the second, which I think most Americans believe is still possible for their children if not for them, through hard work, ingenuity, perseverance and a little bit of luck, they’re able to move upward to achieve a standard of living that allows them some security, piece of mind and a few more of life’s pleasures. Those who succeed appreciate what it is like to struggle because they’ve been there.
As Michele reminds us when we hear her speak, Barack Obama has lived this part of the American Dream. And Barack needs to keep reminding us as well. When the question of education comes up, he needs to tell his story and remind us that he and Michelle were paying student loans until a few years ago. When the question of struggling to make ends meet arises, he needs to tell us what it was like to live on a community organizer’s salary, struggle to pay the rent and provide for his kids.
It’s not that he hasn’t done this. But I find that his tendency to be “professorial” (when did that become a bad thing, anyway?) he speaks broadly instead of bringing it down to the personal. Bill Clinton never let us forget he “came from a little place called Hope.” And Barack Obama should never let us forget that he understands the plight of middle America because he’s LIVED IT. Without saying it directly, the contrast to Mitt Romney’s ability to relate to most Americans will be clear.
A vision for the future
Here’s where I agree with David Brooks (shudder). President Obama needs to paint a compelling picture of what life will be like during and after his second term. It’s almost as if he is afraid to again over-promise, dare us to dream, get our hopes too high again. I understand it’s difficult to convey the image of “a shining city upon a hill” without seeming Pollyannaish. But it’s a risk he has to take. I think voters want to believe, want to give him another chance. But he has to give us a reason.
It may be that his daughters offer the best vehicles for this. There is a parent’s pride, protectiveness and affection that comes over Obama when he mentions his daughters. He’s at his warmest and most real. What’s the world he wants for them? What are the opportunities, the hopes, the dreams he sees for them? And don’t we have the same ones for ourselves and our children?
So, how is he going to take us there? Or, if not all the way there, to the next way station on the path to that shining city? Telling us we won’t slide backwards if he is elected isn’t sufficient, even if we know that it may be the most realistic goal. What will it mean for Sasha when Obamacare is fully implemented? What kind of job will Malia have available to her because of new technologies? What kinds of opportunities will your children and mine have? What kind of life could we have in our retirement?
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good fight as well as the next guy. I love seeing the tough Obama dismantle the lying Romney. But the time has come to give voters a reason to vote for President Obama instead of against the other guy. The time has come to close the deal and put this thing away.