President Obama’s motorcade was still hurtling through Las Vegas traffic when the Rev. Anthony Harris took the microphone to deliver the opening prayer at a rally here for Hillary Clinton.
He looked out on the crowd of 3,000 in the high school gymnasium, waiting for the president to arrive. The feeling was different now than it had been eight years earlier, when Obama had just been elected and Harris led his congregation in prayer for the president. Then, there had been crying and cheering in his tiny storefront chapel and a sense that anything was possible.
Now, Harris, 47, took a deep breath. He hoped his words would rise above the anger and divisiveness of an election season unlike any in his lifetime.
“We pray that at the end of this political process we can learn to love each other, bless each other and trust each other,” he told the crowd, but that noble sentiment did not survive the rally’s first speaker.
Taking the microphone, Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) blasted Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as a “liar,” a “racist” and a “fraud.”
“Lock him up! Lock him up!” the pro-Clinton crowd in the gym started to chant, echoing the anti-Clinton chants of “Lock her up!” that have become common at Trump rallies
“I know people are frustrated,” Harris recalled, thinking as he returned to his seat. “But what does ‘lock him up’ even mean?”
In the week leading up to Election Day, the president will crisscross the country in an effort to help Clinton win the White House and safeguard his legacy. If those events are anything like last week’s campaign stop in Las Vegas, Obama will be met by rowdy, cheering throngs eager to see him one last time before he leaves office.
For many, who will wait hours in line to hear him speak, Obama’s 2008 election represented one of the most hopeful moments in American politics in decades. He was not only the first African American president but a relative newcomer to national politics with a remarkable life story who promised to bridge the country’s historic divides.
“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama said that election night in Chicago’s Grant Park.
Today those words sound as if they came from a different era. Obama will close out his presidency at what is perhaps the least hopeful moment in American politics in decades, a time when the two major-party candidates have historically low approval ratings and are locked in a bitter and coarse election contest. For much of this year, Obama, like the people who pack his rallies, has puzzled over what happened.
“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he said at his State of the Union address in January.
SOURCE: Greg Jaffe
The Washington Post