Does Obama Still Have That Old-Time Magic?


In a few minutes President Obama will be back in Springfield making a speech addressed to his supporters. “You’ve taken on the painstaking work of progress,” he says. “You’ve helped us find that middle ground where real change is won….I hope you’ll tune in today at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.” Andrew Sprung figures this is basically going to be an endorsement of Hillary Clinton:

Obama just sent an email to supporters announcing a speech to be delivered this afternoon. I imagine it will be a message “for” Clinton — both to support her and to model a coherent pitch for incremental change.

….Then there’s “the painstaking work of progress” and the ‘middle ground where real change is won.” Those are memes pointed at this moment, in which the frontrunners in both parties are calling for radical, fundamental change…. Incrementalism is a tough sell, but Obama has made it throughout his career, and he does so more effectively than Clinton. He’s more successful because he’s better at articulating the long-term goal and how the incremental steps move toward them, as well as the historical framework in which those steps fit.

But will it work? Personally, I’ve always viewed Obama as a cautious, pragmatic, mainstream liberal. But his strongest supporters never saw him that way. They really believed he was going to revolutionize Washington DC and end all the bickering. He’d pass universal health care, rein in Wall Street once and for all, and stop climate change in its tracks.

But he didn’t. And the conventional wisdom says that his supporters from 2007—when he first went to Springfield to announce his candidacy—are disappointed in him. He turned out to be just another go-along-get-along guy, and now he wants to foist a go-along-get-along gal on us. Sorry. No sale. We’re feeling the Bern these days.

We’ll see. But I will say this: If Obama really wants to help Hillary Clinton, he can’t afford too much subtlety. Any criticism of radical change will be read by liberals as primarily an attack on Donald Trump unless he makes it crystal clear what he’s talking about. Tune in at 2:30 and find out!