The midterm election was a rude wake-up call for President Obama but it's not the end of the story. We have perhaps read only the first few chapters in a book of many chapters. The death of the Democratic agenda is greatly exaggerated.
Barack Obama has received his dose of humility just in time. Any longer and he would have put himself beyond rescue. All this talk of elitism, detachment, arrogance, 'I am right, you just don't get it' attitude is mostly true.
But what most Americans tend to overlook is Obama's enormous ability to rediscover himself. Anyone who has read his two autobiographical books know it. Why pundits are not using this trait in their judgment is odd. Perhaps it means that they haven't really read the books. Superficial perusal maybe but no serious study for clues to the president's character.
Since his election to the highest office in the land, Obama tried too hard to please his critics while neglecting his support base. He failed in the first and lost big time because of the second. Candidate Obama that young independents flocked to two years ago began to wonder who they really voted for, because the occupant of the White House certainly didn't resemble their hero, their hope.
The enthusiasm gap widened when Obama lost his sense of purpose and began courting the fat cats who gave us the financial crisis that destroyed millions of American families. Although blessed with a gift for words, the president couldn't explain healthcare or the stimulus or the financial reform in a way that common Americans could understand. Obama's packages were too little, although not too late.
The ultimate irony: A man borne on the wings of audacity suffered a failure of imagination.
But here's the thing: Obama can, and will, regain his audacity in support of his principles and in opposition to his implacable foes. It's in his genes.
Americans told him through their votes that they don't like his style and even the substance he has shown so far. They don't like the sense of superiority he exudes. They want a doer in these tough times but find in him an ivory-tower thinker with little or no appreciation of the difficulties they are facing. They want democrats to shed their timidity and boldly take on the Tea Party.
Obama will absorb these lessons in the days ahead and become candidate Obama again. He will recapture the magic by sheer force of will and reconnect with his constituency. He knows that this is the biggest challenge of his career. He will rise to it, not because of the prospect of a second term, but because he knows in his guts it is the right thing to do.