Now that we’ve all recovered from our Election Day-party hangovers, it may be time to have a look at what we have actually been celebrating.
As politicians go, President-elect Barack Obama is not too terrible or, at the very least, doesn’t appear to be. By a fortuitous aberration in the electoral process, the man chosen this year happens to be the best of those available; faced with the options of Tweedledee and Tweedledoomsday, the voters’ choice should be clear, though in recent elections that hasn’t meant much for the outcome. It seems that, finally, nearly a decade of the Bush administration has forced some sense into those swing voters who have hitherto generally managed to screw things up for the rest of us.
The problem with Obama lies in the reception he’s been given by a large section of voters, in the blind adherence to the idea that Obama is certain to be the one politician capable of miraculously curing all this country’s ills. Our generation in particular Obama’s left-leaning base demographic, as we are often described is guilty of this adoration. We talk of Obama’s victory as though we have entered a golden age, but the man is months away from even signing a bill into law.
The Obama campaign has become a lazy man’s revolution: a few dollars donated and a vote given, and all your problems will disappear. The danger is in the perception that Nov. 4 was an end-all victory, the culmination of all we have been struggling for; the danger is in thinking that we may safely stop here.
Yet, there are plenty of reasons to think that the sort of radical reform that Obama-worshipers seem to expect will never even materialize. The source of Obama’s initial success may well be his Achilles’ heel as he begins his presidency. The rhetoric of change and quasiradical demeanor are what gave him the primaries. They are not, however, what won the general election and they are not what will win the 2012 election.
Rather, the key to Obama’s success on this front is his appeal to the center. The need to preserve such appeal will certainly make the prospects for the introduction of universal health care and a return to New Deal-style liberalism, which many have begun touting as an alternative to supply-side economics, rather difficult, particularly given Washington’s present budgetary concerns. If he does fail to enact such legislation, in order to avoid offending moderate voters, it may make for a very disappointing presidential term for Obama’s base.
We have already seen this change begin to occur. As the primaries came to an end and the general election approached, the Obama campaign began to subtly repaint the candidate as a moderate, where previously it had used rhetoric designed to draw the party’s left wing. As new campaign advisers were announced several months ago (Madeleine Albright, for example) and as likely postinauguration cabinet members were announced last week (Rahm Emanuel, Lawrence Summers), the developing Obama administration began to look more and more like Bill Clinton’s.
Very well, so Obama has been trying to appeal to the center; he has to win elections, doesn’t he?
Yet the ones who shouted the loudest cries of victory last week, the ones now quickest to forgive Obama for being realistic and doing what it takes to win the election, are the same ones who, in the primary season, rejected the Clinton approach.
I won’t deny that, in the pursuit of victory, compromises have to be made. Yet, so far, having already won the hearts of his youthful, reform-thirsty supporters early on, Obama has done little to suggest he will do what he pledged when he needed that base to defeat Hillary Clinton.
As one article recently appearing in Newsweek pointed out, if we, the young generation and, I should add, the American people at large demand nothing of the new president (something corporate lobbies have not hesitated to do), we will receive nothing. We have until now done little but offer our unquestioning support in exchange for Obama’s vague promises. Now, as we gain a clearer image of Obama’s policies, his most passionate supporters look as though they will be his least represented.
I, like many others, find the prospect of a president unafraid to show his intellect, one able to craft his own superbly eloquent speeches, a welcome change.
Obama is obviously an intelligent individual, and I won’t deny being impressed. But I refuse to take part in the absurd expectations surrounding his upcoming presidency.
Obama simply has yet to do anything to deserve this sort of adoration and which, in its lunatic fervor, stinks of a personality cult. What we have seen is precisely the type of thinking that places us at the mercy of our government, and we must remember that, like any politician, Obama is merely a tool to help us to pursue our interests, not an object to be worshiped.
Kriskov is a member of the class of 2012.