I’ve noticed a growing trend recently. People – mainly younger people – are starting to realize that the man who now leads our country is notably different from the man they elected. The lovely rhetoric about change has dissolved, replaced with bickering over health care and rushing to judgment on situations that were handled “stupidly.”
Yes, my young friends, the honeymoon is over. There are hard lessons to be learned now, the first (and most important) of which is this: no candidate for any public office can ever deliver on every promise. Why? Because our government is designed so that no one person can push their agenda through unilaterally. And inevitably, someone in that government is going to have a different opinion that the candidate.
Don’t misunderstand – I am not commenting on Obama’s intentions or performance as our president. It’s far too early in his administration to really judge how effective he has been. While I have a strong moral opposition to some of his policies, I completely support him as our leader, and I want him to succeed. If he succeeds at his job, then we succeed as a country.
The issue is that most of us were extremely jaded by Bush; and with good cause. We went from having the entire planet standing with us in a display of unparalleled global unity… to alienating anyone and everyone that ever gave a damn about America. In the aftermath of the many problems that plagued our country, we were willing to listen to anyone that promised a different path. We were a country that had lost our way, and Obama promised us to put us back on track. I think many voters, especially first-time voters (Obama was very popular with the college crowd) bought their man lock, stock, and barrel. Having attended a university at that point in time, I can tell you that many students were completely taken with him and expected him to deliver 100% on all of his promises.
It has been said the voter turnout for that presidential race was one of the highest ever, and for that I am thrilled. Obama got a lot of people who were disinterested in the political process out to have their voices heard. The problem is, I don’t think they fully understood the process they were becoming involved with. I don’t think they understood the degree to which that process would, for better or worse, change their candidate and alter his ability to make good on his word.
Those of us who have been through elections before saw it coming. We knew that, as beautifully crafted as Obama’s speeches were, and as pure and good as his intentions were, there was no way he’d be able to deliver everything. We accept that as being part of the process. All we can do is cast our ballots for the man who best represents our values and hope that he doesn’t completely bail on us (or choose to make a statement by not voting, though I don’t know that I agree with this). I hope that all those who turned out to vote this time can understand that and will not be discouraged from participating in future elections.
It’s really not just a political lesson; it’s a life lesson. No matter how wonderful we make something out to be, in the end there will be disappointment. Expectations are powerful things that are nigh-impossible to fulfill… especially when it’s something as major as the kind of change Obama promised. That platform carried him to the White House amidst a tremendous uproar of patriotism, but I suspect all the rhetoric – well-meaning though it was – is going to end up biting him in the ass. The more you let someone down, the more they are likely to remember it – especially in the ballot box in three more years.