The next four (or eight) years …
January 20, 2009
If I were a professor, I certainly wouldn’t be expecting a big turnout today in my classes. In addition to it being the first day of syllabus week, in which everyone knows we aren’t going to learn anything, it is also Inauguration Day. And those Obama supporters, who make up about 80 percent of the campus, who aren’t going to Washington will still be looking for a party. You don’t have a party yet? Just go to my.barackobama.com to find one near you.
The fanfare and excitement surrounding this inauguration is greater than any before, for obvious reasons. The festivities started on Sunday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a lineup of performers that would almost put the Grammys to shame. And after today, America will officially have its first black president; change will have arrived; and Oprah will have to replace her eyelashes again.
Depending on whom you ask or what you read, Obama is either the second coming of Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Kennedy or a combination of all three. He hasn’t exactly discouraged such comparisons either. He traveled to Washington via a whistle stop train tour retracing Lincoln’s route. In the middle of the inauguration concert on Sunday, he gave a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, much like the King did 45 years ago. His wife has been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy, a new fashion icon in the White House.
And the only thing that is higher than the enthusiasm surrounding his presidency is the expectations of it. He is assuming office in what is apparently the worst time in the history of our nation.
He will be expected to no less than withdraw completely from Iraq in 16 months or less, ensure that Iraq is stable enough to survive on its own, defeat al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, close Guantanamo and make America follow all of the rules and laws both domestically and internationally and still root out and fight terrorism, fix our economic crisis and achieve greater economic equality, start a green revolution to solve the “climate crisis,” provide universal health care to millions while still maintaining a great quality of care and, in general, make America happier.
Of course, he probably won’t be able to do all of that. He is, after all, human. But the question is, if he doesn’t accomplish these things, if he isn’t successful in turning the economy around, if another terrorist attack occurs on his watch on U.S. soil, if health care isn’t taken care of, how will he be judged? Now, you might think that it seems really early to be discussing something like that; after all, he hasn’t even had a full day on the job yet.
Yet, because of his uniqueness as a president, there is certainly a reason to wonder if he will actually be judged by his record or if it will be romanticized and the bad parts glossed over or – Democrats’ and liberals’ favorite game – if people will blame Bush. Every president gets a certain honeymoon period, where the aura of excitement and enthusiasm at what can be accomplished still hangs around him.
Yet, with the amount of excitement and enthusiasm that is around Obama, one has to wonder if the honeymoon will ever end. Obama and his supporters will only be able to use the excuse “It’s Bush’s fault” for so long, until the public realizes that it isn’t his fault, but the failure of the current administration.
Another thing to wonder is will blacks be able to disapprove of him? He is the first black man to hold the office and whom 98 percent of black people voted for, so it’s obvious how incredibly popular he is and how much he means to them.
Will they be able to see past his race and see him as the politician he is, one who can and should be criticized at times? And will Obama’s election finally spell the end of people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Bobby Rush or Obama’s old spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright; people who have made their livelihoods off of playing the race card?
It seems obvious I was wrong earlier. The one thing that is higher than the expectations surrounding his presidency are the questions. We’ll have the answers to all of them in the next four years. But for now, there is only one thing to say: Hail to the Chief.
Jordan is a junior in MCB and is wondering where the best party is at.