And, as it happens, the moment when the cult falls apart inevitably arrives. Take it away, Fouad Adjami:
Five years on, we can still recall how the Obama coalition was formed. There were the African-Americans justifiably proud of one of their own. There were upper-class white professionals who were drawn to the candidate's "cool." There were Latinos swayed by the promise of immigration reform. The white working class in the Rust Belt was the last bloc to embrace Mr. Obama—he wasn't one of them, but they put their reservations aside during an economic storm and voted for the redistributive state and its protections. There were no economic or cultural bonds among this coalition. There was the new leader, all things to all people.The problem with a cult of personality is that any personality that aggregates a cult around itself is going to be malignant in some crucial way. We want to believe that our leaders are good people and that they have our interests at heart. You can still, even at this late hour, make that argument on behalf of Barack Obama. And you might even be right, in a limited way. Where it all comes apart is when leaders fail to accept their own limitations. I thought this was evident a long time ago with Obama. We're now finding out what those limitations actually mean.
A nemesis awaited the promise of this new presidency: Mr. Obama would turn out to be among the most polarizing of American leaders. No, it wasn't his race, as Harry Reid would contend, that stirred up the opposition to him. It was his exalted views of himself, and his mission. The sharp lines were sharp between those who raised his banners and those who objected to his policies.
America holds presidential elections, we know. But Mr. Obama took his victory as a plebiscite on his reading of the American social contract. A president who constantly reminded his critics that he had won at the ballot box was bound to deepen the opposition of his critics.