It is beyond doubt that Barack Obama would not have been a national political figure had it not been for his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
In a moment of profound national division over the war in Iraq, gay marriage, and so much else, he reminded the nation of its basic ethic of E Pluribus Unim–indeed, he aimed to personify it.
But as president, Barack Obama sought opportunities to create division and confrontation, the better to motivate his core supporters and control the media narrative.
And in the Trayvon Martin controversy, Obama has spent the last of the moral and political capital he earned in that historic speech, which now stands as a testimony to who Obama might have been, not who he actually is.
Obama’s statement on the acquittal of George Zimmerman appealed for calm, appropriately–but he could not resist the urge to politicize yet another tragedy, urging Americans to embrace gun control, a divisive issue which had already ground to stalemate and defeat earlier this year. He treated the “passion” that many Americans feel about the case as if it were an extraneous phenomenon for which he bore no responsibility.
The protests that have broken out “sporadically”–with the aid of committed community organizers, and the encouragement of the media–across the nation are not evidence of America’s inevitable racial divisions, which would subside were they not whipped up by demagogues, but of the failure of Obama’s leadership.
We are no longer a nation of red states and blue states. But we have become–temporarily, and against the momentum of our culture and history–a nation of black and white states of mind, brought to that point by a president whose entire life stands as a stark contrast to that artificial, politically opportunistic clash.
This crisis, too, shall pass–but the political persona of Barack Obama shall never recover. Nor should it.