Has Obama Lost His Mojo?

ByPadmini Parthasarathy

Lord knows I’ll be voting for incumbent President Barack Obama again, because, as my friend so eloquently put it, “Frankly, all the other candidates scare the s*@t out of me.” However, it appears to me that Obama is skimping a bit on the optimism front these days.

Some would argue that it is maturity — a more nuanced understanding of his position — that has caused his metaphorical beard to grey. However, history indicates that a healthy dose of optimism helps, especially during times of economic crisis. FDR’s “fireside chats” come to mind. Radio, a revolution similar to that of today’s social media, enabled the Depression-era president to communicate with his citizens. I’ll stop short of calling these addresses pep talks, but they were a method of delivering the salient national updates in a reassuring, paternal, manner.

The role of the president is similar to that of a salesperson. He sells his position to Congress, as well as to the American people. Unfortunately, it feels like Obama has all but completely lost the ability to sell his ideas to the necessary parties. As a result, he has become more ideologically conservative.

This loss of momentum has fueled apathy in his young, liberal base. As Politico correspondent Julie Mason writes, “It’s not as cool to support him anymore.” Perhaps this is because he’s lost the youthful optimism that he had successfully campaigned with. Maybe my frustration is coming from the fact that Obama can not really run on the “hope and change” platform that worked so well for him in 2008. However, for him to regain his political traction, some of that young spirit needs to come back.

More than anything, I would like to see that same conviction that he entered into the 2008 race with. Time and time again, the president backs off, repositioning himself towards the center, shying away from taking a more partisan stand. His original commitment to close Guantanamo Bay detention center fell by the wayside when he decided to resume military tribunals for the detainees. The recently announced drawdown of troops will only negate the troop surge that Obama authorized in 2009. He even lifted the moratorium on offshore drilling. His liberal convictions have faltered, and his base has noted this. I don’t think this repositioning necessarily suggests a shift in his true political ideology. It just feels like he’s caved under pressure.

Yes, the man is human. However, this does not excuse the fact that he has compromised too much for the sake of being liked. I’d like to see him regain that old political fortitude, that gusto for his liberal beliefs, and that infectious optimism about the future. Optimism unfreezes markets, wins elections, and gives politicians the power to implement real change. However, his recent track record works to his detriment.

I’m intrigued to see how the Obama campaigners will sell their candidate in this election. Optimism is a large part of that indispensable “X factor” that people look for in their politicians. Hopefully, Obama will regain the conviction and hope for the future that made him so attractive in the first place.

Maybe Obama’s cynicism is better than being so deluded that your entire team quits (looking at you, Newt Gingrich). Still, if Obama wants to be re-elected, he needs to continue to hope hard for a better future, and America needs to see it.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons