Bare, ruined choirs

From a Commentary Magazine article describing “How Barack Obama wrecked the Democratic Party”:

In 1723, Christopher Wren was buried in St. Paul’s, the magnificent cathedral he had rebuilt following a devastating fire in London. His epitaph concludes with the Latin phrase Si monumentum, requiris circumspece — “If you wish to see his monument, look around.” In 2017, Barack Obama will leave the White House after eight years during which he presided over the Democratic Party.

If you wish to see his monument, look around.

Look to your right and you will see that his designated successor lost her bid for the presidency to a man Obama himself had not only campaigned against ferociously but declared unfit to hold the nuclear codes. Look to your left and you will see the news stories detailing the possible strategies for the repeal and the replacement of the president’s signature piece of legislation, Obamacare. Then look up and down at the partisan cathedral he helped to rebuild. Its benches are, as Shakespeare said of tree branches in winter, “bare, ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.” While he was the one with the nuclear codes, the Democratic Party has been hit with a neutron bomb. And on the bomb’s nose, written like the “Dear John” message on the nuke in Dr. Strangelove, were the words:

“Barack Obama was here.”

The Democratic Party cathedral stands, to be sure, as structures will after a neutron-bomb attack. But it has been denuded of its priestly caste — the elected officials who were teeming within it when Barack Obama was first elected in 2008 and had every reason to believe they would move inexorably from the back rows of American politics to the front. There are some 8,000 elected officials in the United States at the state and federal levels. Between 2009, when Barack Obama took office, and today, as he prepares to retire from it, more than 1,100 Democratic elected officials lost their jobs to Republicans. That number is unprecedented.

The article concludes with:

As it turned out, Barack Obama was a political genius with one unparalleled skill — getting Barack Obama elected and reelected president. For everyone else in his party, and for his party itself, he has been an unmitigated disaster. And now, his decimation of his own electorate has helped to ensure the election of Donald Trump. Out of office in 2017, Barack Obama may have to stand by, impotent, as the legislative and policy advances that were supposed to be his enduring legacy vanish like the thousand elected politicians unfortunate enough to have been serving in office when Barack Obama came along and hollowed out the Democratic Party.

Christopher Wren has been dead nearly 300 years, but St. Paul’s Cathedral still stands. Four years after the end of the Obama presidency, there may be no monument of Barack Obama’s left standing for anyone to look at.