Great expectations for Obama
If President-elect Obama wins on the big issues, Americans win. The
reverse is also true. What defines winning in part depends on what you
consider to be the big issues. And in part, some just, de facto, are.
There’s no dearth of commentary out there itemizing the list of what’s most important for the new administration.
Peggy Noonan has been taking ‘the long view’ and now looks at the larger picture.
His biggest challenge? Not demoralized and reorganizing
Republicans on the Hill but his own party, with a hunger for innovation
and a head of steam built up and about to burst. And the incredible
sense of expectation his supporters hold. When you think someone’s
Moses, you expect him to part the seas.
Americans want change, and they just voted for it, but in times of
high-stakes history they appreciate stability. And while we love drama
in our movie stars and on our television sets, we don’t love unneeded
drama in our government and among our govern-ors. This is already a
dramatic time—two wars, economic collapse—and people are rattled.
“Moderation in all things.” It should be noted here that the split in
the popular vote was 53% to 46%. That is a solid seven-point win for
the new president-elect, but it also means more than 56 million voters
went for John McCain in a year when all the stars were aligned against
Obama can either keep that split in mind, and those 56 million
voters who favored another worldview, or claim his victory as a mandate
to impose his own worldview. Give him time to sort it out. He ran a
stunningly well organized and strategized campaign. But the presidency
is entirely different.
Mr. Obama has a significant portion of the nation to win
over…He does have yet to earn it. Hint: They want peace, progress in
the economy and nothing socially extreme. And they want to respect
their president. Forget “they want to have a beer with you.” That was
yesterday, when beer was cheaper. They want to respect you and look up
to you; they want you to be a positive, not negative, role model for
their children; they want to know you can lead as you ran, capable…And
they want you to handle whatever history sends over the transom, and
that will be plenty dramatic enough, as everyone knows.
Many of Mr Obama’s more ardent supporters will be let
down—and in some cases they deserve to be. For those who voted for him
with their eyes wide open to his limitations, everything now depends on
how he governs. Abroad, this 21st-century president will have to
grapple with the sort of great-power rivalries last seen in the 19th
century…At home, he must try to unite his country, tackling its
economic ills while avoiding the pitfalls of one-party rule. Rhetoric
and symbolism will still be useful in this; but now is the turn of
detail and dedication…
And by winning support from a big majority of independents, and even
from a fair few Republicans, he makes it possible to imagine a return
to a more reflective time when political opponents were not regarded as
traitors and collaboration was something to be admired.
But The Economist puts that victory in perspective, once again
raising the point that while this is a significant victory, it is not a
Oddly, he may be helped by the fact that, in the end,
his victory was slightly disappointing. He won around 52% of the
popular vote, more than Mr Bush in 2000 and 2004, but not a remarkable
number; this was no Roosevelt or Reagan landslide…
Given how much more money Mr Obama raised, the destruction of the
Republican brand under Mr Bush and the effects of the worst financial
crisis for 70 years, the fact that 46% of people voted against the
Democrat is a reminder of just what a conservative place America still
is. Mr Obama is the first northern liberal to be elected president
since John Kennedy; he must not forget how far from the political
centre of the country that puts him.
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