Reflection after Barack Obama was elected
(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)
Four years later and I can’t sleep after this result either.
I am an unabashed politics junkie- I don’t really go out of my way to discuss politics, but over the past 10 years or so I’ve turned into somebody that follows every excruciating bit of minutiae of our great experiment1. But, I’m no sycophant. I tend to agree with Democrats more overall, but the Democratic party is not my party.
I remember that night in 2004 after an election I cynically participated in, voting for a candidate I had talked myself into but didn’t really believe in. Four years after an election I participated in but was still learning what it meant to be the news hound I have become, and four years after an election that took place in what seems like a different world and in many respects did. That night in November 2004 I felt sick. Rove’s lasting Republican majority was a reality, and another slim majority passed another mandate for an administration I disagreed with on every major policy point. I couldn’t sleep.
The political pendulum swings in this country, and will continue to do so. However, this is not a pendulum that swings in two dimensions. I can see vividly in my mind the Foucault’s pendulum at the Indiana state museum that stuck in my mind more than anything else on the many trips I took there on a child. It swings in three dimensions to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation- and this time it may not be swinging right at my individual peg, but it is swinging my way.
Barack Obama, a man I had never heard of until the keynote speech of the DNC four years ago, has been elected president of the United States, and it is still sinking in. I remember watching him that night and thinking ‘that guy has a bright future’ and wondering how he would prove disappointing over the years until maybe he ran for president in 2012 or 2016.2
When he announced his candidacy this time, I supported him skeptically, but with a sliver of optimism. I never truly believed he’d have a shot. But something about his message and campaign hooked me still. I’ve never been happier to have been wrong.
This election has been a perfect storm, but one that has resulted in a clear message being sent- not a drawn out dogfight marred by recounts and allegations of fraud and caging. It is a mandate, and one I believe President Obama will not overreach and squander, but use wisely.3
There’s a reason I believe in the man, and it’s not his campaign policy platform. It’s because he’s always been pragmatic and realistic in almost every chance I’ve had to see past the campaign to the man. Even when he’s taken stances I disagree with even strongly, I can see his reasoning and respect it.4
He will anger some of his base with some decisions he makes. He will not treat White House appointments solely as rewards to dole out to the true believers. He will make many decisions I like, and if he strays from that I will criticize him. But, I do not fear for understanding during an Obama administration.5
I take no joy in being correct about my gloomy temperament in forecasting the future four years ago. I think George W Bush has mishandled quite a few things in his second term, but some things were forces of nature. He has achieved some positive things as well, especially since ’06, even if some steps were taken much later than necessary.
But, the president is like the quarterback- they get all the credit, and they get all the blame. The economy was headed for the reckoning at some point as a result of the American lifestyle and our collective economical irrational exuberance from the poorest citizen up the wealthiest. It might have been slowed or accelerated but it was coming eventually. The water has withdrawn, and we now face a tsunami of unknown size approaching that will test the mettle of this nation. I have faith in our collective ability to fight on and endure, and return stronger even. The president does not fight on, the nation fights on led by the president.
The deep wound caused by our nation’s original sin got its largest bandage yet tonight, but it the wound itself will linger on for at least another generation. There is a rift politically between a lot of people tonight, but a bridge can be built even as our ideological differences remain. One man can not do it himself, but he can do his best to point us in the right direction.
Above all other things we now have our great chorus of voices led by one that remembers that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. We will stand up and fight the very real dangers of this world head on. We will assess frankly the depth of the great challenges we face on energy, the economy, and the environment. We may stumble, and we may be wounded, but at last we have someone to remind us that we are a great nation of great people, and that we are not afraid.6
I have always had faith in this country and its ideals. That faith has been tested in the past, and going forward it will almost certainly be tested again- maybe even very soon. The pendulum will eventually swing in another direction. But, just like in one of Einstein’s dreams about time- this moment has a decent chance to last longer than others.
While I breathe, I hope.
I've let that part of my life go, and I'm much happier not following the day to day of politics. (08/2013)↩
I can't really decide how different the last 5 years would have been had Hillary won the primary. It's fun to play the "what if" game, I think a lot of things would have gone the exact same way, but others could have been wildly different in positive and negative directions. (08/2013)↩
It will really be interesting to get enough distance from the implementation of the affordable care act to be able to evaluate its impact honestly, since that mandate ended up being used on that and the stimulus.↩
Not always the case these days. I do not regret voting for the man twice, but man do I disagree with some of the stances his administration has taken. (08/2013)↩
Hey, there was a lot of optimism in the air right after this election, despite the fact that the economy was in shambles. (08/2013)↩
A little lofty here to too. I swear I'm not a cynic, but realism often intersects with what seems like cynicism. (08/2013)↩