With President-elect Barack Obama scheduled to take the oath of office on Tuesday, many people across the country are hoping that his new leadership will bring a renewed vigor to the ailing economy and a new sense of respect and authority on the international front.
But these expectations may be a bit of an Everest for the new president, at least in the timeframe that many believe these changes will take place.
I am proud to say I am not an economist, but those who do wear such a wrecked title say that the economy is probably the worst it has been since the Great Depression. Let’s assume it is true and things are getting progressively worse. Unemployment has not even reached its high water mark yet, and nearly every industry is feeling the crunch of people with empty wallets. Obama probably does not have a magic spell to fix the economic problem (he might, but I would not bet the house on it). The problem is that so many people have already bet their houses on other things.
Internationally, the problems are not looking much better. Israel, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Need I say more?
The transition process has also not gone as smoothly as no-drama Obama had hoped. The governor of his home state has been impeached for trying to sell his Senate seat, and Blagojevich seems to want to put up a fight. The Burris affair, being a spawn of the scandal, has divided Democrats. Bill Richardson had to take his name out of contention for Commerce Secretary, and some elder congressional Democrats have complained that their input has not been sought after when making crucial appoints.
So with the three-ring circus going on inside the Democratic Party, how can he hope to hit the ground running on Wednesday?
In all seriousness, Obama has about 15 months, if he is lucky, to govern. After that, the midterm elections will be upon us. He is then going to need to start running for re-election and focus will turn from him to the Republicans and their search for a candidate.
Let’s face it, there are not enough Republicans left in Washington to fight off a troop of Girl Scouts demanding their money for their cookies, so they will naturally blame all future economic failures on Obama. And with his promise of trillion dollar deficits, a de facto call to arms for fiscal conservatives, Obama and his party will be facing stiffer competition than they did a few months ago. No doubt the always-whiny Ron Paul will be able to hang around the national political landscape for a little longer with such volatile fuel in the air.
But that is not even the worst news for the future administration when dealing with upcoming elections. The Democrats will most likely lose their two greatest assets from the 2008 election. First, and most importantly, George W. Bush will no longer be in the national spotlight two and four years from now. Luckily for the Democrats, Republicans have a way of finding people in their party that the general public finds politically repulsive (enter Sarah Palin).
The other invaluable asset for Obama was, of course, the young vote—college students, mainly. Four years from now many of these people will be young professionals, and many of them hope to be in, or moving into that income tax bracket that Obama wants to tax the hell out of.
That is, of course, the Republicans greatest asset—the American Dream. Everyone thinks they are going to be rich some day, and they do not want to feel like they are going to get screwed over when they get there. Likewise, the chances of a new wave of young zealots filling in the vacuum is probably not that likely, as by the time the next election rolls around, Obama will be the establishment.
So what does this all mean for Obama? He is going to have to fulfill, and exceed, the already ridiculously high expectations that have been laid out for him to even have a hope of keeping face.
I hope he does, because regardless of political affiliation or bias, the success of Obama and the success of the United States are one and the same the next four years. Likewise, the ability of Congress to function as an organized and effective body will also be needed.
We have about two years before we have to elect another round of the most influential people in the world. Let us work together to ensure that when we step into the voting booths, the candidates are seeking offices that still hold such grandeur.