As we near Election Day, the airwaves are rife with hyperbole and apocalyptic warnings from Democrats fearful that Donald Trump will defeat Hillary Clinton. They rail at the voters — pleading with them to stop this terrifying, crude ogre before it is too late. President Obama, trying to rekindle his 2008 magic, struts the stage in shirtsleeves, branding Trump a “KKK sympathizer” who isn’t qualified to be president. For her part, Hillary Clinton screeches through her speeches, hurling tiresome anti-Trump insults and mouthing tedious clichés about “building bridges, not walls.”

Team Clinton still claims to be confident of victory — but their words now carry the stench of decay and defeat. Hour by hour, they wonder what Assange will drop next and if the FBI investigation will result in Hillary making history — two impeachments in one family. They must be smart enough to know that whatever happens on Tuesday, their world is coming to an end. If nothing else, Donald Trump has had the guts and gusto to show millions of Americans that their policies no longer work for the average American. He has proven that they have no arguments to make other than personal smears, threats, and negative attacks on their opponents.

In his heart, he was not the outspoken tribune of the people that he played in 2008 — but the former editor of the Harvard Law Review who believed in his fellow elites.

It didn’t have to be this way.

Eight years ago, the elites of this country got a wonderful surprise. In the middle of two disastrous wars — both of which Hillary Clinton supported — the elites of the country were saved by the arrival of Barack Hussein Obama. He was (and is) a politician of extraordinary gifts. He is a brilliant speaker, a man with natural charm in all settings, someone who is equally comfortable talking to billionaires and union workers. The Clintons (naturally) tried to destroy him — throwing everything they had at him — and still lost. He’s the only man to beat them politically in over 35 years (at least for now). Significantly, he wasn’t tied to the disastrous policies that the Bushes and Clintons had supported — and he had a mandate for change. After all, he had promised to re-negotiate NAFTA repeatedly on the campaign trail:

“I will make sure that we re-negotiate,” Obama said of NAFTA during a Feb. 27 Democratic debate in 2008 hosted by NBC. “I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage.”

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He criticized Hillary for her support for the Iraq War:

“I was opposed to Iraq from the start,” Obama said at a January 2008 debate against Clinton in Los Angeles, “and I say that not just to look backwards, but also to look forwards, because I think what the next president has to show is the kind of judgment that will ensure that we are using our military power wisely.”

In the general election matchup against Arizona Sen. John McCain, Obama claimed to oppose gay marriage.

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman,” Obama said at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in August 2008. “Now, for me as a Christian — for me — for me as a Christian, it is also a sacred union. God’s in the mix.”

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He also said that China was a currency manipulator.

In a letter put out by his presidential campaign in October 2008, Obama said the U.S.-China trade imbalance was “directly related to [China’s] manipulation of its currency’s value.”

“China must change its policies,” Obama said in the letter to the National Council of Textile Organizations. “That is why I have said I will use all diplomatic means at my disposal to induce China to make these changes.”

And he won big. So he had a clear mandate to reverse our approach toward globalization and implement a more nationalistic trade policy. He also had a clear mandate to break with Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. He had a mandate to keep the federal government out of the debate over gay marriage. In other words, he could have done the very things that many of Donald Trump’s supporters want. If he had carried through with his pledges — if he had really broken with the Clintons and their divisive policies — he could have created a new center, and American politics would look very different today.

But Obama, for all his criticism of the Clintons, decided to trust them one more time. In his heart, he was not the outspoken tribune of the people that he played in 2008 — but the former editor of the Harvard Law Review who believed in his fellow elites. After hammering Hillary Clinton for her poor judgment on foreign policy, he made her secretary of state. After pledging to adopt economic policies that would help the average American, he staffed his economic team with Clinton retreads like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner. He devoted the first few years of his presidency to achieving Hillary’s dream of health care reform. He stuck to the Clinton/Bush line on open borders. And, of course, he abandoned his criticism of our Clintonesque trade policy — eventually becoming a full convert to big multilateral deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He never did declare China to be a currency manipulator.

In other words, after creating one of the most dramatic and successful American political campaigns in history, after promising a new approach in which there would be no red states or blue states, but only the United States — he gave us eight years of policies that were almost exactly what Hillary herself would have done. Hillary would have given us more war, but that’s the only big difference between them. Of course, he used his own remarkable charm to persuade the voters to trust him on these policies, and to convince them that he was doing his best, and so he got a lot further than she would have.

As this history shows, our elites got an incredible gift in Barack Obama — an amazingly talented politician, elected as an outsider, who ended up defending many of the same policies that the Clintons have been pushing since the 1990s. But what did the Clintons and their fellow elites do for Obama?

  • They gave him a disastrous, overly complicated health care scheme that had already begun to collapse before he even left office.
  • They gave him an economic policy that has never generated significant growth — except for the very rich — and that has left real median household incomes lower than they were in 1999.
  • They gave him a social agenda so radical that the Senate has refused to approve — or even vote on — his most recent Supreme Court appointment.
  • They gave him a 5,500-page Trans-Pacific Partnership so hated (especially within his own party) that Hillary herself has denounced it — at least for now.
  • They gave him a foreign policy that has staggered from one disaster to the next, and that still has American soldiers at risk in the Middle East.
  • They gave him scandals that have his current FBI director at war with his former secretary of state.
  • They stuck him with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi — leaders so unpopular that by 2014, the American people had given both Houses of Congress to the Republicans.

And now they have him chasing votes all over the country in a desperate attempt to save Hillary Clinton, and forcing him to tie his legacy to hers.

Don’t get me wrong. President Obama bears responsibility for his own policies — he chose to follow the advice of the elites, instead of sticking more closely to what he had promised in 2008. He chose to put Hillary Clinton in charge of the State Department, and effectively anoint her as his successor, despite knowing her many flaws.

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History will be appropriately harsh in its judgment of him for these mistakes. But the failures of Barack Obama should send a message to every one: if Barack Obama, with all of his political skill, cannot make the Clinton policies work in today’s world, then no one can. The 1990s are over, and they are never coming back:

  • The Clinton approach to globalization puts American workers at an unfair disadvantage in global markets, and strengthens the Chinese at our expense.
  • The Clinton approach to economics enriches the few at the top of the society — the same folks who have always donated to the Clintons — but hurts the average American.
  • The Clinton approach to foreign policy leads to disasters like Benghazi, the rise of ISIS, and humiliations by China and Russia.
  • The Clinton approach to social issues frightens and offends half the country so much so that our courts become toxic political battlegrounds.

Haven’t these policies done enough damage by now? Isn’t it time to admit that they don’t work for most Americans, and that we need to try a different way? The American people hoped that Obama would do just that — that’s why they picked him over Hillary and McCain (the two Establishment types) in 2008. Unfortunately, he let them down. Now the American people have one more chance to change course. Let’s hope they take it. Because the longer these policies remain in place, the longer most of us will continue to suffer.