For a party that just took God out of its platform, the Democrats certainly do like their deities.
They made a god out of Jack Kennedy, who left hundreds of Cuban patriots to be slaughtered and meet their Maker on the beaches of the Bay of Pigs and then led America down the road to a holy war against communism in Vietnam.
They canonized Martin Luther King Jr., who may have had saintly intentions, but liked to dance with his devils.
They raised high on a pedestal the ruthless and relentless Bobby Kennedy, who cut his teeth working for Joe McCarthy – and cut the legs off anyone who challenged, embarrassed or underserved his brother.
And were it not for a certain stained dress, they would have turned the Man from Hope into the God of Hope.
Now the deification continues with Barack Obama being portrayed on the first night of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte as not just a hard-working President who tries to do the right thing and is hoping for a second term, but as the embodiment of everything good and true about the United States – an American Gandhi if you believe his wife, Michelle.
“I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he is going to do, even w hen it is hard, especially when it's hard,” the First Lady said. “I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as us and them. He doesn't care whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, or none of the above. He knows that we all love our country, and he is always ready to listen to good ideas, he is always looking for the very best in everyone he meets. And I love that even in the toughest moments, when we're all sweatin' it … and it seems like all is lost, Barack never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and noise. No, just like his grandmother, he just keeps getting up and moving forward with patience and wisdom, and courage and grace.”
Right. And his hobby’s making fudge.
What’s so odd about this portrayal of the President is that when you put it through the lens of the GOP Convention in Tampa a week earlier, what you see is what was celebrated there. American exceptionalism. The lone individual who matters so greatly and changes so much. The Atlas who doesn’t shrug.
Sure, sure there was talk about Obama’s aim being to give all Americans the same opportunities that he had; to not slam the door of success behind him but to reach back and pull others along. And there was talk of grants and scholarships and student loans – the public helping hands that helped him get where he got.
But the story of Night One was this: America’s future depends on the excellence of one man and one man alone. The kind of solitary character you see in a lot of Clint Eastwood movies. Obama as The Outlaw Josey Wales and the High Plains Drifter -- without the sidearms (and the empty chair).
When he got out of Harvard, the convention was told, Obama forsook the high-paying jobs he could have had. He became a community organizer. Then a state senator in Illinois, ran for Congress and lost, and served briefly as a U.S. senator before waging a brutal fight for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008 – all so he could be the beacon of light and promise for all of us.
That contrasts ever so powerfully with Mitt Romney, who got out of Harvard, took a well-paying job, moved on to build a business and enrich himself, ran for the U.S. Senate and lost, took on the high-profile task of saving the Salt Lake City Olympics and served briefly as governor of Massachusetts (“He’s a fine fellow and a great salesman, but as governor he was more interested in having the job than doing it,” current Governor Deval Patrick said last night) before waging a brutal fight for the Republican nomination.
Or maybe the contrast isn’t that stark.
Maybe both stories are about unrelenting ambition trying to get to the same place by different routes.
The irony is that of the two, Obama’s path seems the more Ayn Randian, the more individual. Taking the less-traveled road and relying less on groups in a restless quest for power and influence.
Mitt, on the other hand, had his family, his partners at Bain, his Olympic organization, his administration in Massachusetts. Plenty of help in achieving success.
So you can look to Barack, the god of Charlotte, and say more truly of his success: He built it. And remember to genuflect.