"I expect to be judged by results ... If stuff hasn't worked and people don't feel like I've led the country in the right direction, then you'll have a new president."
Barack Obama may regret saying this comment in a stimulus pep rally in 2009.
After hearing from numerous independents and Democrats from swing states, all of whom are enormously disappointed in Obama's first term, "Can we go through another four years of this?" is the question that the new documentary "The Hope and Change" ends on. What could America look like after another term of squandered economic opportunities and leadership driven by radical ideology contrary to the much-celebrated promises of unity he rode into office on?
It's a tragic story -- of people who put their hopes and dreams in political rhetoric and were left not just disappointed, but despondent.
"You know there is something wrong with the kind of job he has done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him," is how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney summed it up during his speech at the Republican convention.
"When it comes to strengthening the middle class and enabling upward mobility, President Obama's policies have failed," Romney has subsequently said.
For the last week, the media has focused on a surreptitiously taped video from a Romney fundraising event where the candidate attempted to explain -- admittedly inarticulately -- who would realistically consider him in November. He's been accused of aloofness to the struggles of a large segment of the country; he's being accused of the problem he seeks to solve.
"The Hope and Change," which is running on a number cable and broadcast networks in some states through Election Day, tells the story of Americans who have stopped dreaming, the "5 to 6 or 7 percent" who Romney explained in those taped remarks that his campaign needs to connect with. They are voters who realize that a lack of "due diligence" elected Obama; the "euphoria" has stopped, leaving them stranded in an unpleasant reality.
As Chad, a Democrat from Colorado, explains: "If I would have just met my wife 15 years earlier at that point in time, I was making enough money. I would have had the time and the money, she would not had to have worked, she could have spent all her time if she wanted to with our kids. I would have been able to do the weekend thing, the whole backyard-barbecue American dream. But you don't get that anymore. And instead, you fight and struggle.
Romney has promised to help families like Chad's. At the convention, he provided an important philosophical background: "All the laws and legislation in the world will never heal this world like the loving hearts and arms of mothers and fathers. If every child could drift to sleep feeling wrapped in the love of their family -- and God's love -- this world would be a far more gentle and better place."
Helping create an environment where families can flourish, this is at the heart of public service. This is what a president and a Congress can make happen.
I had all of this in mind while at a dinner celebrating -- and raising funds for -- the Consortium of Catholic Academies, some of the poorest schools in the poorest areas of Washington, D.C. (These are schools, by the way, whose existence is threatened by the president's health-insurance mandate.) "My dad's from Nigeria; he came to this country seeking a better future for this family," Obi Mbanefo told the audience. A sophomore at Gonzaga high school, Mbanefo wants to go to Ohio State or Princeton.
Mr. Mbanefo got a solid education because of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program that the president had to be arm-twisted by Speaker of the House John Boehner and outgoing Senator Joseph Lieberman into reauthorizing, despite its bipartisan support. But it's the dreams of Mbanefo's father and voters like Chad that are at stake in this election.
Email Kathryn Lopez firstname.lastname@example.org.