Barack Obama rode out of nowhere into Washington on a wave of popular adulation, championing the noble but nebulous ideas of Hope and Change. Hailed as The One who would bring our nation back from the brink, he promised to reverse the downward trend of our economy while correcting the errors of his predecessor. He cheerfully accepted praise, outright worship in some quarters, with smiling face and outstretched arms. He would preside over a new nation of peace and prosperity, ending the war and befriending enemies, governing with transparency and bipartisanship.
But as President, Mr. Obama soon found that his job included more than winning, smiling and being adored. He had to govern as well. Choosing his minions carefully from among friends and others he could trust, he appointed numerous czars to powerful posts without congressional vetting. Controlling both houses of congress, he set about passing laws that would correct the iniquities within our society and ‘fundamentally change’ our culture, his way.
In this effort, ambiguity replaced the promised transparency. Past personal and professional associations were concealed, and he refused to make public any personal records or college papers. He released a birth record only when public clamor demanded it.
Bipartisanship was another casualty. When confronted, his rejoinder was: “I won.” Similarly, transparency in government was not to be. Instead of the promised vetting of proposed legislation via public television, we received seriously flawed partisan legislation crafted behind closed doors. Congress was rushed to “pass this bill so we can see what’s in it,” rather than have it read and understood before coming to the floor for a vote. Promises to correct errors of the previous administration went unfulfilled. It was discovered that ending an ill-conceived war was not so easy because of the circumstances surrounding it: the enemy was not clearly defined (being a country with ephemeral borders, no real economy, a largely theocratic government, a non-uniformed militia that looked exactly like the local citizenry, and the benefit of our own political correctness), and a reluctance to take what might be an unpopular stand.
He has failed to govern, choosing instead to campaign while unemployment and government intervention into business increases, the lead time and cost of regulatory compliance skyrockets, and the national debt burgeons.
The smiles and outstretched arms have given way to frowns and an increasingly negative attitude toward the previous administration, both political parties and the citizenry itself, even a certain petulance when criticized. It appears that he likes crowds but not the people in them.
Who is this man? We still don’t know, yet we elected him to the presidency of the mightiest nation on earth. Why? On the strength of charisma and promises not to be fulfilled. Non-taxpayers flocked to the promise of ‘fundamentally changing our nation,’ believing that they would benefit from government largesse. Naysayers were minimalized with thinly-veiled charges of racism.
Our nation has been fundamentally changed for the worse in the past few years, and we have only ourselves to blame. We bought the promises of an unknown politician on his word alone. Desperate people do desperate things, and deserve what they get.
But there is a brighter side as well. It showed that our predominantly white nation could put its faith in a black man for the highest office in the land – no small thing. Another positive: America got a wake-up call. We learned to be more cautious when electing our president. For all the grief, this is just a hiccup in our history. It’s happened before only a few years ago. We survived it and grew from the experience, and we will survive this one and grow from it as well.
Another plus is that our next president will know that the electorate will be more discerning and keep a more focused eye on government. The 2010 election showed that Americans are paying closer attention, and the next few months will constitute a gauntlet to be run by politicians generally that should result in the government of the next few years, at least, to be more responsive to the wishes of the people.
To borrow a phrase from the past, “We shall overcome.” And we’ll be better for it.