The man who promised to end the bitter divisions and small-mindedness of American politics, which he called a vindictive "blood sport," mounted a campaign of personal destruction of his own that ignored our troubling economic, social and civil decline.
The post-election result is a crippled presidency without a public mandate or mission to tackle the immense issues that threaten to plunge an ever-weakening economy into a deeper, long-lasting recession.
From the start, Obama's campaign has been all about class warfare, dividing the nation between low- to middle-class Americans on one side and upper-income Americans and the business class on the other.
It worked. Roughly half the nation bought into his Elmer Gantry demagoguery. The other half didn't. Obama carried 25 states, including the biggest electoral prizes (Florida is still in doubt), and Mitt Romney carried 24.
The president's campaign ads -- models of character assassination -- defined Romney as a ruthless corporate takeover thug who fired workers, sold off company assets and became rich in the process. He was a man who declared war on women, threw the elderly out in the snow, and favored the rich at the expense of the middle class.
The truth is that Romney founded a respected venture capital company that invested in start-up businesses and built them into some of the most successful enterprises in the nation, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and careers in the process.
Some did not work out, but most did: Staples, Toys R Us, Domino's Pizza, Sports Authority, Burger King and many more. Romney was building businesses, jobs and incomes when Obama was a neighborhood organizer for the welfare state.
As the race heated up and the polls tightened, Obama's TV attack ads became more vicious and desperate. One of them ended with the racially suggestive tag line, "He's not one of us." Vice President Biden told a heavily black audience that Romney's policies will "put you in chains."
An early Obama ad that sought to raise questions about Romney's job-creating talents portrayed his four years as governor as a failure on job growth. In fact, he ended his governorship with Massachusetts' unemployment at a low 4.7 percent.
Obama's campaign was all about the art of the attack, not about what he would do for the country over the next four years to lift the economy out of what voters say feels like a recession, and put millions of unemployed Americans back to work.