Hillary Clinton can count herself lucky to have Barack Obama cheerleading her bid for the presidency. The outgoing President is ending his time in power with high approval ratings. People still approve of him after all these years; like Hillary’s husband Bill, Barack’s presidency is ending on a high. And last night, at the Democratic Convention in Phili, he gave an absolute belter of speech supporting her claim to the White House.
It was the speech progressives have been aching to hear. Mr Obama addressed the American people directly, when he said: ‘Time and again, you’ve picked me up. I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too. Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me.’
Like an old band performing before a loving crowd, Obama knocked out all his favourite tunes. He spoke about unity, the promise of America, and even ‘the audacity of hope.’
He praised Hillary: ‘No matter how much people try to knock her down she never quits. That’s the Hillary I know.’
And he dissed the ‘demagogue’ Donald Trump: ‘The Donald is not really a plans guy; he’s not really a facts guy either.’
Lots of people in the audience cried. It was powerful stuff. At the same time, Obama’s speech begged the question: what happened to that audacity of hope he promised eight years ago? What happened to the ‘fierce urgency of now’? Does it carry on, mystically, in Hillary? Or does it fade away with him? Obama may be popular as a man, and still a great speaker, but his presidency has left America more polarised than ever, more receptive than ever to a Donald Trump-type demagogue. Obama is the unity president who divided a nation.