Obamamania: Expectations Meet Reality

by Rick Rockwell

One of the rules that seems to govern our society is no one likes to hear the phrase: “I told you so.”

Certainly, when it comes to the meteoric rise to power of Barack Obama few of his supporters want to hear anything that dims the luster of the president-elect.

The mood, both inside and outside the beltway, seems to be: “Don’t crash the inaugural party, nay-sayers. Don’t bring any negativism to our celebration of hope and change.”

Folks should celebrate this coming week as power changes. The end of the Bush era, as this blog has noted many times, leaves a long list of challenges ahead and the hope is the next administration will tackle those issues competently. However, when it comes to the matter of the incoming Obama administration, it does seem as if this blog has a bit of the Cassandra complex.

Long before Obama was elected, the projection published here was he would be a moderate: a centrist who might even tilt a bit to the right. Forget his U.S. Senate record, which some said, made him the most liberal Senator, even to the left of Ted Kennedy. As noted here, that record was assembled in just two years and the rest of Obama’s time he was off campaigning, hardly voting.

Even before he takes the oath, some in the flock of Obama supporters are grumbling under their breath. For instance, there was that mega-flap over Rev. Rick Warren and including him in the inauguration ceremonies, despite his anti-gay views. This battle over symbolism and appearances didn’t square with the image folks had of Obama and it may have forced his transition team to promise a quick resolution to the issue of gays in the military when Obama takes office.

Actually, poke the coalition of various Democratic party factions a bit, and there’s some disappointment with Obama just underneath the surface, despite the historic events unfolding in the coming week. Groups like the National Organization for Women (NOW) expressed disappointment there aren’t more women in the cabinet. The Congressional Black Caucus thinks there aren’t enough African-Americans in Obama’s appointments. Although Latinos are generally happy, they don’t like talk that the appointment of the Secretary of Commerce may go to other ethnic groups after Gov. Bill Richardson’s flame out due to a corruption probe. Gay rights groups, already a bit miffed due to the Warren issue (which was blown a bit out of proportion: it wasn’t as if Obama had put him in the cabinet) have assembled a laundry list of issues they expect the new president to act upon in the next year.

And there’s a general sense of disappointment with some of the cabinet picks, such as Republican Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary. Despite what Obama promised about bipartisanship throughout the campaign, some didn’t seem to understand that would mean Republicans in the cabinet. Given that President Bill Clinton also governed with such bipartisan cabinets, but the Bush administration was mostly bent on maintaining conservative power, some Democrats have wondered when Democrats will govern from somewhere that isn’t the moderate center, if not center-right. Easing Howard Dean out from his post heading the Democratic Party despite his successes in the past two elections seems to point toward the moderation of the coming Obama administration.

There’s even a bit of a different standard for Obama’s cabinet. Timothy Geithner’s problems with taxes and undocumented workers would have sunk his appointment in the Clinton administration, but it seems he is about to sail to approval as a very powerful Secretary of the Treasury.

The evidence of what Obama would deliver has been there all along. As Democratic blogger and author Glenn Greenwald noted:

“So many progressives were misled about what Obama is and what he believes. But it wasn't Obama who misled them. It was their own desires, their eagerness to see what they wanted to see rather than what reality offered.”

Despite this shifting mood, the Republicans have reached into their old Clinton playbook and are already trying to paint Obama as a socialist (true socialists just laugh at such hyperbole) and someone who will govern from what they call the “far left.” The fact is these critics are so far to the right on the political spectrum that the middle looks like the “far left.” The other 75 percent of Americans seem to be tired of this old partisan game, at least for the time being.

The electorate has pushed its own images of what hope and change mean on to the new president-elect. We’ll see that demonstrated time and again in the coming week. But when Obama starts governing from the middle, don’t say we didn’t tell you it was going to be that way.

(Political graphic © copyright Conservative Punk; this conservative blog allows use of its graphics with the appropriate credit.)

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Turk said...

I agree with most of this, Rick, but I have to say most of the disappointment I've seen expressed about laHood is the fact that he has absolutely zero experience on transportation issues. It has little to do withthe fact that he's a Republican and more to do with the fact that Obama seemingly chose DOT as one of his "throw them a bone" cabinet positions, and many Obama voters like myself had high hopes that Obama would not only care about transportation issues but make them a focal point of his presidency. This selection seemingly shuts that case down before it was even opened.

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