The shows are less frequent now, the crowds are smaller and they’re leaving early to beat the traffic, and President Barack Obama seems to have reached that inevitable stage of decline in every rock star’s career. There’s no evidence of drug binging or dressing room demolitions or any of the other “Behind the Music” cliches, but there is obviously the usual denial.
With his party expected to take another shellacking in next Tuesday’s mid-term elections, and the formerly adoring press already laying the blame on his sagging poll numbers, Obama is reportedly infuriated with the Democratic candidates who have been trying to distance themselves from his record. Yet another one of those unnamed White House officials told The Washington Post that Obama “doesn’t think they have any reason to run away from him, he thinks there’s a strong message there,” and given the president’s actions the quote is all to believable. Obama gave the Republicans a sound bite for countless attack ads when he declared that “I”m not on the ballot, but make no mistake, these policies are on the ballot,” has done little to hide his intentions to write executive orders that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens and impose other unpopular policies just after the elections, has resisted popular outcry for a ban on travel from Ebola-stricken countries, and otherwise has acted with little regard for the electoral fortunes of his fellow Democrats. He seems to believe that it’s still ’08, when he had more fainting fans than Elvis in ’56 or The Beatles in ’64 or Michael Jackson during the “Thriller” heyday, which is common to faded rock stars insulated by the last of the die-hard groupies.
Such hubris will eventually prove troublesome, as it always does. A Republican Senate to go along with a Republican House will make the political equivalent of a ’68 comeback special all the more difficult, even if it does provide Obama with something to rail about to the delight of the last remaining fans, and nothing in the president’s repertoire suggests that he’s capable or learning any new tunes palatable to a changing audience. The noble fight he’ll no doubt wage against those evil Republicans will please what’s left of the fan base, but not with the majority of Americans who elected his congressional antagonists. The man who once stood between faux Greek columns provided by Madonna’s stage designer and wowed a packed house with promises to fundamentally transform America and heal the planet and slow the rise the oceans will have to settle for the stimulus and Obamacare and a few million more restive and resented illegal aliens as his legacy, and none of it will ever be regarded as golden oldie.
The royalty checks will still arrive and there will be a lucrative gate at the nostalgia tours as well as the corporate speeches, however, and our long experience of passé rock stars suggests that will be enough to sate the president’s ego. One can only hope that the public will be wised up that next time it elects an experienced politician with a practical understanding of economics and statecraft rather than a rock star to be president, and short of that it will at least elect someone more in the Roy Orbison or Chuck Berry mode, but our long experience of America’s popular culture suggests it’s only a faint hope.
— Bud Norman