Even as an Obama supporter, I freely admit that much of his appeal is based on personal, rather than strictly objective, factors. He has an engaging personality, a compelling life story, and a physical stature appropriate for the leader of the free world. His election is a historic event in the life of our nation, and a positive sign of the progress made in racial relations.
This is not to say that I feel his election was due solely to externalities. I happen to agree with many of his positions, and with most of his proposed solutions. I think the last administration has been so incredibly harmful to the country that it requires a stark and total repudiation.
The risk going forward is how to judge President Obama's progress, and here I call for caution, not from the right, but from the left. Obama could solve world hunger and bring about a golden age on Monday, and the Republicans would find something to criticize on Tuesday. Nor are they necessarily excoriated for doing so. It is their job, and a republic needs a free opposition.
The real danger is that those of us who supported him may not hold his administration to the kind of strict inquiry required of public affairs. Obama is incredibly popular, and much of his campaign was explicitly anti-establishment. We must be careful to avoid a cult of personality, and always remember that we elected him to effectuate policies we believed in. This charges us with the obligation to be objective; a burden far more demanding now than it has been the last eight years, but one we cannot evade.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Barack Obama's inauguration as President of the United States, aside from a generational defining and historically sweeping event, was also one of the most impressive pieces of political theater I have ever seen. His speech was a measured, well-crafted and memorable statement of the principles by which he plans to govern, the challenges we are to face, and the ills he hopes to avoid.
Although given to a very friendly crowd, his performance was dignified yet still uplifting, and would have been well received by any objective observer. Even those critical of his positions or of him personally should still be compelled to admit that the inauguration as an event, and his participation in it, was quite impressive.
The task now for President Obama is to actualize the many goals he outlined during the campaign. His supporters, and indeed objective observers as well, understand that he has inherited a plethora of potential disasters from President Bush. The opposition, already unwilling to take responsibility for the last eight years, despite their total repudiation by the country at the polls, will be quick to pounce on any perceived weakness.
Obama was elected on a platform that promised change. It remains to be seen how much room he will have to maneuver, with the legacy he has been left by Bush. But even if he cannot fulfill all his campaign promises (and they never do), I expect him to continue to work towards those goals, even while resolving the problems left by the previous administration.
That may sound like a tall order, but nobody ever said being president would be easy.