During my lifetime, in virtually every election in my recollection the party out of power has banged the drum of urgency and declared that "This may be the most important election in our lifetimes." The rallying cry is meant to instill a sense of foreboding into the partisan faithful, to energize the base so that they will be willing financial contributors and foot-soldiers for the party leadership. For those that follow politics closely and study history, at some point there comes a bit of "Boy Who Cried Wolf" apathy to the process. Sometimes our team wins, and sometimes we lose. When we win, we are always disappointed that we are not able to get more of our agenda through. When we lose, it may be bad, but usually not nearly as dire as the prophets of doom predicted.
In 2008 a young, charismatic black man stunned the political old-timers by defeating the vaunted Clinton machine for the presidential nomination for the Democrat Party. In Barack Obama, black Americans saw the fulfillment, or at least a gigantic leap toward it, of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream. Obama, riding a wave of optimism with his oft-repeated mantra of "Hope and Change," garnered the vote of 96 percent of black voters, and nearly half of the white vote. This was a stunning success considering that a large percentage of the white vote would not have voted for a Democrat regardless of skin color.
After 20 years of Bush-Clinton-Bush fatigue, of a long war and the economic crisis that hit just prior to the election, as well as the desire among many white voters to give the young political neophyte a chance, thereby proving that America was moving beyond its racist past, Barack Obama was elected with a majority of the popular vote; something that Bill Clinton failed to do in two tries.
Obama was thrilling to listen to. He spoke of hope and change, of breaking the gridlock in Washington and reaching across party lines. He promised a government that would protect the weak from the powerful and greedy, that would make the rich pay their "fair share" while giving a tax cut to 95 percent of Americans (an interesting trick since nearly 50 percent of Americans pay no federal income taxes which could then be cut). He promised health care reform, which would increase insurance enrollment while cutting costs through the elimination of waste, fraud and abuse (which begged the question that if there was so much waste, fraud and abuse to be eliminated then why had they not done so before?), and by bullying insurance companies into doing what the federal government wanted. These were heady times for Obama and the Democrats, and they were understandably excited about ushering in a new era of populist liberalism to bury the corpse of conservatism and Reaganism once and for all.
Yet a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral. Despite forcing through several of his major agenda items (the stimulus package/bailouts, ObamaCare and the newly signed financial reform bill), Obama's popularity has taken a nosedive even as he racks up policy successes. While he should be basking in glorious adoration from the people for proving he can get his agenda through, he is instead watching his poll numbers drop precipitously.
Why the sudden reversal of fortune? I believe it is because Obama is now learning the lesson (or not) that governing is much different from campaigning. He had so little experience and had taken so few firm stands on any issues that there was just not all that much for his opponents to use against him during the campaign. Those few controversial stands that he had taken were whitewashed by Chris "I get a tingle up my leg" Matthews and an adoring media. Few people outside of FOX News viewers ever heard much about his opposition to critical care for babies that survived abortions or the race-hatred rhetoric of his pastor of nearly two decades or his advocacy of singer-payer (i.e., government run) health care, or any number of other things that would cause the average American concern.
And therein lies Obama's problem. He is now president, and the ultimate responsibility for governing lies with him. He can no longer rely on soaring rhetoric; he must now provide concrete results. No longer can he vote "present" on the tough issues, now he must give the marching orders.
So far, America is not all too happy with the decisions he has made. ObamaCare, his agenda centerpiece, was shoved down the throats of an increasingly concerned American public, and it has grown more unpopular after its passage, to the point that the president feels compelled to go on tour to trumpet the virtues of the bill after the bill was passed. Another signature piece of legislation, the just-signed financial reform bill, places additional burdens on businesses (thereby reducing profitability and the ability to grow), while simultaneously protecting their buddies at the mega-corporations that made the poor decisions in the first place (and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the two biggest dominoes in the financial meltdown chain, are exempt from the legislation). Many are asking themselves what good this new 2000-plus page bill will actually do, when the last major financial legislation didn't stop the current crisis.
There is also the matter of the bailouts, the incompetence in handling the oil spill, the continuing entitlement growth and runaway deficit spending, the looming specter of tax increases to deal with a massive, unsustainable ocean of red ink (because apparently there is not a single dollar in the federal budget, outside of defense, that can be cut without people dying in the street and civilization collapsing), the refusal to deal with illegal immigration and the invasion of our southwest border by Mexican gangs and drug cartels, and a Justice Department that uses race as a determination for which cases will be prosecuted.
In short, this is not the change that the American people envisioned. Americans as a whole know that we have problems that need to be fixed, but they also know that ours is the greatest nation in the world and it does not need to be "fundamentally transformed", but rather restored to the founding principles that made us great in the first place. I pray that more Americans will join the spontaneous uprising of their fellow citizens and take the time to study the Constitution and the Declaration and other foundational documents, so that we can understand American exceptionalism and help to restore it.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is vice chair of communications of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.