Forum

Obama’s shellacking leads to word revival

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Shellacking: “2. A beating or thrashing, a ‘pasting,’ a defeat. Slang.” So says the Oxford English Dictionary. Yes, it is this slang — this varnish-influenced term — that has brought forth a deluge of press headlines describing President Barack Obama’s performance in the recent midterm elections.

Of course, Obama was not actually running for any office, but in a speech he blamed himself for the Democrats’ “shellacking” in the recent polls. Of course, though they did maintain their control of the Senate, and the Democrats also have a president who continues to push serious legislation through a fractured Congress, the recent elections have been admitted even by Obama as a decisive defeat.

But what really is this defeat? Maybe it isn’t the seats lost or the shifting of the House from blue to red. As Obama said to 60 Minutes: “I think that, over the course of two years, we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation. That it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone.”

So this is his new tone: not just pushing legislation, but actually selling it. Something we should have expected Obama — the known man of words, philosopher president, best-selling author, and famed orator — to be able to do. He should be able to offer confident leadership to back up his legislation. So, in light of his recent embarrassment, now he is going to set a tone.

That tone: shellacking. Obama has applied resin to his speech, a layer so thick the BBC’s News Magazine has run a piece describing what a shellacking actually is. But in his midterm campaigning and his conversations post-“defeat,” he has begun to address the populace that must continue to believe in him.

Through this most recent trial, regardless of his continued effort to do what is right for the country and for future generations of Americans, he must again compel us to support him, through his actions and through his words.