Throughout the last election and into his new administration, President Obama’s race has been the preoccupation of much of the country. Now with that issue blessedly behind us, the more important race for his signature in the early days of his administration is on. At issue is whether he will grow in office to leadership that adopts an expansive understanding of the basis for America’s extraordinary success before he makes decisions reflecting a more negative view of this country. In the headlong race to make him commit to a direction very early in his administration, the signs are not promising.
President Obama arrives in office with extraordinary expectations from his own side of the aisle, a side he is predisposed to associate himself with. Ideologues of varying degrees of socialism want sweeping changes in wealth redistribution, socialized medicine, and expansive government. Historical Democratic self-interest groups want payback through the advancement of their interests in union membership, environmental restrictions, and funding for all manner of social activism. Congressional Democrats, blocked for years from the unrestrained spending for which they are so well known, want the floodgates opened. Opened wide and immediately. From these groups we see a trillion-dollar, pork-laden spending bill, pending rules that would force unions on unwilling workers, and a major shift to government taking ownership positions in public companies. And all this must be done within a month of taking office.
Could it be that the backers know the office itself quickly tempers the zeal of its occupants? Is that why there is this race to “get things done” on so many liberal fronts? It is a race to get President Obama’s signature in place before alternate realities can intrude. Decisions made now will be very hard to undo so one must hope the president considers his decisions well and acts with caution. He has, however, very limited legislative and no executive experience, so he must rely on personal experience and judgment to guide his decisions. In this there is cause for concern.
On the one hand, President Obama’s life has been a series of vignettes that occupies but one small corner of the American reality. A youth in Hawaii; the emotion and heat of urban college years amplified with components of race, drugs, and activism; community organizer in Chicago; and being shepherded into a brief stint in the mud of Illinois politics hardly exposed him to the reality of the other 300 million Americans going about everyday life. All this reasonably shapes the world as he sees it, but it also provides the foundation for a significantly distorted view of the American experience. Can he accept the possibility that his perspective of America and the world is profoundly shaped by the narrow and highly ideological group with whom he has spent his life? Let’s hope so.