In 2008, a mostly unknown Barack Obama ran for president on an inclusive agenda of "hope and change." That upbeat message was supposed to translate into millions of green jobs, fiscal sobriety, universal health care, a resetting of Bush foreign policy, and racial unity.
Four years later, none of those promises will be themes of his 2012 re-election campaign. Gas has more than doubled in price. Billions of dollars have been wasted in insider and subsidized wind and solar projects that have produced little green energy.
Unemployment rates above 8 percent appear the new norm, when 5 percent in the past was dubbed a "jobless recovery."
From the Middle East to the Korean peninsula, the world seems on the brink. Modern racial relations are at a new low.
If borrowing $4 trillion in eight years was "unpatriotic," as Obama once labeled George W. Bush, no one quite knows how to term the addition of $5 trillion in new debt in less than four years. ObamaCare is unpopular with the public. Its constitutionality now rests with the Supreme Court.
After four years, the claims of "Bush did it" and "It might have been worse" grow stale. So re-election will rest not on a new agenda, or an explanation of what happened, but on a divide-and-conquer strategy. Translated, that means Obama will find fissures in the voting public over fairness, expand them, and then cobble together various angry partisans in hopes of achieving a bare majority. Such an us/them strategy is not new in American history.
There are suddenly new enemies called the "one percent" -- those who make more than $200,000 per year and who "do not pay their fair share." Apparently in a zero-sum economy, this tiny minority has taken too much from the majority and thereby caused the four-year lethargy that followed the 2008 meltdown. Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan and Franklin D. Roosevelt all ran, with varying success, against the selfish "rich."
Congress is also now a convenient enemy of the people. Although it was Democratically controlled in Obama's first two years, and the Senate remains so, the new theme insists that a Republican House stops the Democrats from finishing all the good things they started. When support for 16 years of the New Deal had evaporated by 1948, Harry Truman ran successfully against a "do-nothing" Republican Congress that had blocked his own big-government "Fair Deal" follow-up and thus supposedly stalled the economy.