I originally wrote much of this critique back in my junior year of college, then filed it away. That piece argued that the unrealistic portrayal of politics on television conditions Americans to expect more from their politicians than they can possibly deliver. And it cast Obama as both beneficiary (as a candidate) and victim (as a president) of this mythology. Belief in the transformational capacity of a singular presidential figure fueled liberal enthusiasm during the campaign; since then, failure of the Obama presidency to overcome political realities and live up to this impossible standard has fueled bitter liberal disappointment.
Another great example of the cartoonish exaggeration of the power of the presidency in popular culture: Steven Spielberg's upcoming movie Lincoln. Take a look at the TV spot that aired during last night's presidential debate: