Notwithstanding the stagnant economic promise of Barack Obama’s America, the president’s left flank remains determined to see in him the same singular greatness he doubtlessly sees in himself. All flaws, failings, and ambitions unrealized are the fault of maleficent Republicans tilting bitterly at the windmills of Hope & Change™ because they hate minorities or something. The president’s approval ratings are impressively high on the afterglow of his re-election, and liberals have already carved his place in the 21st-century Pantheon of the “post-Rushmore Rushmore.” While the media remains complicit in the impression of progress on jobless “hot button” issues, this polling advantage might persist for a time. But eventually, the ultimate questions will crescendo: Where is the progress? Where are the (good) jobs?
The flying unicorn mythology of Obama’s legend — a hodgepodge of truth, legerdemain, and outright fantasy — was a problem evident in that early rebuke of Eric Cantor: “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won.” It continued in a pattern of unanimous rejections at the Supreme Court through the recent judicial rebuke of the unprecedented expansion of executive authority to declare when the Senate is not in session — a step even George W. Bush did not take. Most recently it emerged in the fantastic notion that a skeet-shooting photo has any more relevance to a discussion on the right to self-defense than “American Idol” balloting has to the right to suffrage.
Obama’s cool hubris is a fascinating extension of the atmospheric self-infatuation that characterizes his young American bulwark of support. It’s small wonder that a generation raised on social promotion — as opposed to demonstrable merit — and feel-good pop moralism — as opposed to substantive ethics and results — would increasingly rate itself “above average” while clinging to a commander-in-chief who simultaneously embodies and enables the party of lip-service responsibility amid spiraling insolvency.
The sad irony is that Obama’s governance is in many ways the instantiation of the America of my generation. The staggering self-absorption prevents the kind of raw but earnest self-reflection that would reveal a rather inconvenient but obvious truth: we would rather convince ourselves and others that we love and represent humanity than undergo the hard, unflattering work of ensuring that anyone but ourselves is substantively better off. Thus the focus on “hot button” issues to the neglect of a broader, practicable vision of the world. As William Kremer put it, “Narcissists may say all the right things, but their actions eventually reveal them to be self-serving.”
To the degree that young America is the Obama demographic, we are The Post-Everything Generation of Internet activists, community organizers, and It Gets Better. Our leaders are terrified of civilian weaponry they don’t bother to understand and yet are comfortable deriding a prince in active military service. They borrow endlessly with no regard for our future or our children, and we dutifully enable them with paeans to “intersectionality” and “kyriarchy” (neither of which, according to Windows and Chrome, are even words). Our philosophy is post-reality, our metric post-results, and our outlook post-narcissism. We are a cesspool of vanities anathema to pride or consequence. We are the generation of Hope, which is but reified wind.
But nothing is forever. One day soon, Obama’s colossal pride will stumble in the ever-quaking rumble of reality, and my generation will discover its liberalism is at odds with its entitlement. In the end, we all just want to do right by our convictions. As my eighteen-year-old self discovered the world wouldn’t change my ruined tire, no matter how much I valued and deserved my weekend, there will be a day of reckoning for the big-government activism of the Obama coalition.