Tuesday, November 3, 2009

One Year Later

A lot of you were euphoric one year ago upon the election of President Barack Obama. And even if you didn't agree with his politics, you couldn't deny it marked a turning point in history: the election of this nation's first-ever African-American president. A lot of you were glad to see George W. Bush headed out the door. Heck, a lot of you would've voted for a ham sandwich than anything remotely connected to the Republican Party.

Now we're finding that we expected too much, like many in Iowa as The New York Times reports:
“I’m afraid I wasn’t realistic,” Ms. [Pauline] McAreavy, 76, a retired school nurse, said on a recent morning on the deck of her home here in east-central Iowa.

“I really thought there would be immediate change,” she said. “Sometimes the Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. But it’s politics as usual, and that’s what I voted against.”
Welcome to our world, Ms. McAreavy. Won't you come on in?

In the past year, President Obama has learned the difference between campaigning for president and being president. As I have said before, things get a lot tougher when you sit behind the big desk. That eagle on the front of the podium, the one flanked by the teleprompters, is not a magic wand. To paraphrase a thought from former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, you work with the government you have, not the one you would like it to be.

Still, a lot of us ignored reality. Some of us, I'm convinced, naively thought President Obama's historic election would shock the political system into line and his critics would somehow fade away, left stupefied by his surge from long-shot to winner and convinced this represented an unshakable mandate. That didn't happen. The Republicans found their footing in the health care and economic stimulus debates, and Sarah Palin didn't quit campaigning.

A few gubernatorial contests and House seat up for grabs today won't tell us a whole lot about the mood of the nation. A lot can happen between now and next year's congressional races, but I'm reminded of 1994, when Democrats lost control of the House and Senate after a prolonged debate over a massive health care reform plan. If it happens again in 2010, I wonder whether we'll have anybody willing to touch the issue again anytime soon.

But we'll remember this: we live in a Constitutional Republic, not a Constitutional Monarchy. Expecting earth-shaking, profound change from any politician doesn't jibe with the workings of this nation. You won't like this principle when your favorites are in power, but you'll love it when they're not.

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