Obama Trades 'Hope and Change' for 'Win at All Costs'

What happened to doing something courageous regardless of whether you’re attacked?

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President Obama has lost his way. The path he laid in The Audacity of Hope and paved on the campaign trail has fallen into disrepair, in need of its own stimulus refurbishment. He, like so many past politicians, suffers from the all-encompassing desire to win. People didn’t vote for that. People wanted change. They are increasingly left disappointed.

[See a slide show of 10 keys to an Obama comeback.]

Not too long ago, as House Democrats were wavering in their support of healthcare reform, President Obama spoke about principle. He told his caucus:

And now a lot of us have been here a while and everybody here has taken their lumps and bruises … And when you do something courageous, it turns out sometimes you may be attacked … But you know what? Every once in a while, every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made.

There were no teleprompters, there were no crib notes, it was just President Obama saying what he believes. Regardless of your partisan slant, that was quintessential Barack Obama. The man who inspires you to believe that when all the politics are cast aside, when you get down to the core essence of why elected officials do what they do, it is because they believe in it.

The run up to the midterm elections has left me unsure who the real President Obama is. Seeing his party’s political fortunes wane in the run up to Election Day, President Obama said at a news conference last Friday:

[I]n an environment where we’ve still got 9.5 percent unemployment, [candidates] are going to make the best argument they can right now. And they’re going to be taking polls of what their particular constituents are saying, and trying to align with that.

Wait. What happened to doing something courageous regardless of whether you’re attacked? Pardon me if I’m less than inspired by this change in position. Sticking your finger in the wind, seeing which way the political winds are blowing, and aligning your sails accordingly is not exactly the kind of principled leadership I expected. After all, if that’s the way you sail how can I know which way you’re going? Sure, “hope and change” was more of a talking point than a clear policy map, but replacing it with “win at all costs” provides even less of a guide.

The fact is, American voters are interested in having representatives who listen to their points of view. But we want them to do it more often than once every two years and preferably some months other than September and October. Democrats were elected because they promised to bring something new to the table. To some extent they made good on those promises. They radically altered the health insurance landscape, they instituted new banking regulations, and have attempted to revive the economy via Keynesian measures.

It just so happens that their courage may not be rewarded. Americans didn’t buy their brand of change. But that is the time to take your lumps and bruises and say, as President Obama encouraged them, “I’m willing to stand up even when it’s hard, even when it’s tough.”

Apparently it has gotten too difficult. Democratic candidates are making any argument they can in an attempt to win. They are tripping over the president’s coattails in an attempt to run away from him. Whenever possible they are highlighting their opposition to their party’s agenda. They are even going so far as to eschew the Democrat label altogether.

President Obama began his healthcare pep talk by saying, “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.” How sad that in the end Democrats desire to win trumped their desire to be true.