Obama happy

I admit it’s getting better (Better)
A little better all the time*
Yes I admit it’s getting better (Better)
It’s getting better since you’ve been mine
Getting so much better all the time
It’s getting better all the time
Better, better, better
It’s getting better all the time
Better, better, better
Getting so much better all the time

“Getting Better” (last stanza)–LENNON / MCCARTNEY

The America I know is full of courage, and optimism, and ingenuity.  The America I know is decent and generous.  Sure, we have real anxieties – about paying the bills, protecting our kids, caring for a sick parent. . . . [P]arents who wonder whether their kids will have the same opportunities we had.

All that is real.  We’re challenged to do better; to be better.  But as I’ve traveled this country, through all fifty states; as I’ve rejoiced with you and mourned with you, what I’ve also seen, more than anything, is what is right with America.  I see people working hard and starting businesses; people teaching kids and serving our country.  I see engineers inventing stuff, and doctors coming up with new cures.  I see a younger generation full of energy and new ideas, not constrained by what is, ready to seize what ought to be. . . .

America is already great.  America is already strong.  And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump.

–Barack Obama, July 27, 2016

Feeling better, America?  Obama gave us a pep talk a couple of nights ago at the Democratic Convention, done with his singular rhetorical flare.  Sure we have problems, but the future is bright.  Be patient, let Hillary take the reins, and we will keep making progress.  And please don’t worry too much about her mistakes.  Sure she has made them, but we all make mistakes.

This is the Democrats’ version of Reagan’s “Morning in America.”  Call it “Morning in America” lite, because at least Obama admits that we have a few problems.  But as they warn generals: be careful that you are not caught fighting the last war.  All of this happy-talk rings hollow in the face of the continuing trials faced by the middle and working classes, not to mention the poor, over the last several decades.

What’s really shocking here is how poorly the Democrats understand their adversary.  Or if they do understand the Donald’s appeal, their counterattack is, let’s say, risky.  Look at Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”  Obama and the Democrats want to say that the Republicans have a deeply dark vision of America, which we must fight.  Because, after all, things are getting better.  But this is not what Trump is selling.  He’s selling: we are really messed up right now, but we still have a future which can be great.  He is hitting the Dems from the left and from the right.  He acknowledges that things are bad, but says, we can fix this.  And not only fix it, we can be great, again!

Trump’s strategy highlights how the Democrats, with Obama and Hillary leading the charge, are detaching themselves from reality.  The vast majority of Americans currently think that things are getting worse.**  And fewer than half of the millennials believe that they will be better off than their parents.  The Democrats are sounding to many like the ivy tower liberals that the conservatives mock.

What this comes down to is whether Americans still believe in progress.  Of course, as Americans, it’s hard for us not to.  It’s part of our DNA.  However, there are times, these times, when Enlightenment notions of progress simply ring untrue.  The Great Depression of the 1930’s was another such time.  But Obama, Hillary,  and their people can’t or don’t want to recognize that faith in progress isn’t cutting it right now for most Americans.  This is why what should be a spectacular triumph—the nomination of the first woman candidate of a major party for president—is so often met with a shrug, among men and women.  They simply don’t believe in progress in the same way, so that breaking a glass ceiling is not a priority compared to the other kinds of challenges we currently face.

What many, perhaps most, Americans believe is that the system is rigged.  Trump tuned into this.  And so did Sanders.  Obviously the differences between these candidates are huge, but both tapped into a widely held conviction.  No, more than a conviction.  A gut sensibility.   And here you have Obama and Hillary trying to hold back the tide by telling people to distrust their gut.***

Throw in now the distrust that people feel for Hillary, especially after the IG and FBI reports.  People believe she was guilty and got away with it.  This strikes Americans as an attack on one of their most sacred values.  From our earliest days we are taught to be fair.  We see justice in terms of fairness.  But the system isn’t fair.  And the Democrats are running a candidate who is the very face of that system, a member of the elite who has used the rigged system to avoid consequences that the rest of us would suffer.

But it’s getting a little better all the time.

Oh, I guess I should mention a lyric that was left out of the Beatles’ last stanza, which front and centers the satire of the song.  In the background the Beatles can be heard singing what Obama and Hillary don’t want us to hear.

I admit it’s getting better (Better)
A little better all the time (It can’t get more worse)

The case for Hillary Clinton is that it’s not so bad and it’s going to get better (incrementally), but with Trump, it will get worse, better not rock the boat.  Perhaps this is a winning argument.  But it’s a hell of a gamble in what appears to be a change election.

________________________________

* (It can’t get more worse)

** According to a Huff Post polls aggregator, by a margin of 68% to 24.4% Americans currently think that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

*** This also explains a good deal of the animosity toward the Sanders supporters.  Not only did they defy Hillary.  They defied the narrative of progress and the standard-bearer for the Democrats’ narrative of incremental progress, Obama.  The contrived ‘Bernie Bro’ attack was aimed not only against sexism, it was meant to paint a picture of Sanders supporters as Neanderthal-like, insensitive to how much progress we have made.

 

 

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