That seems so long ago, doesn’t it? But the Obama fairy tale remains in place for an awful lot of people — and in the ensuing years, Bill Clinton has (seemingly happily) taken on a supporting role in the narrative.
In a way we can see this election as a test of whether America has become tired of the narrative, or whether it wishes to stay in dreamland. Obama has woven the spell himself, aided and abetted by his supporters and mentors and admirers, both in the media and elsewhere.
Some time ago I likened the process of possible disillusionment with Obama as similar to falling out of love. We idealize the love object, as in a fairy tale. In a fairy tale the lovers live happily ever after. But real life can be a little more like another tale of dreams and fairies, that of Titania and Bottom in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
You may remember the plot. Titania, queen of the fairies, has been placed under a spell by Oberon with the help of the mischievous Puck. It has caused her to fall in love with a cloddish man named Bottom, who has in turn been placed under a spell that has turned his head into that of an ass. Later on she receives the antidote that magically undoes the spell. Looking at the creature she formerly adored, she is now not only repelled, she wonders how it was that she could have ever been so thoroughly fooled:
My Oberon! what visions have I seen!
Methought I was enamour’d of an ass.
There lies your love.
How came these things to pass?
O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!
We in this country have had many kinds of presidents, good and bad, beloved and detested. But have we ever before had a president whose career and persona have been based to such an enormous extent on a carefully constructed narrative that in turn rests on weaving a spell over a charmed public? And was the antidote finally administered last Wednesday night, at the hands of that not-so-very-Puckish guy, Mitt Romney?
For some people, perhaps — but for enough of them to make a difference come this November 6th?