Obama is not your Savior
President Bush and Barack Obama might see one another differently, but this much is true: both have benefited from the American people’s tendency to turn to the executive branch for protection. George Bush’s approval rating surged to 90 percent following the 9/11 terrorist attacks; Barack Obama, in the midst of a recession, has won enough support from concerned voters to take a definite lead in the presidential race.
The problem is, Bush didn’t exactly save the country from the crises facing it in 2001. Considering this country’s history with “change” candidates, I wonder if an Obama presidency will turn out any different.
Whenever the United States is endangered, either by a terrorist attack or a lagging economy, the American people faithfully turn to the executive branch for their problems to be solved. Plenty of us envision the president as a fully understanding, fully capable individual who can turn the lives of 300,000,000 people around with a few strokes of the pen.
The problem with this vision is that it leaves out one important element: the American people. Barack Obama might be a capable leader, but he makes up 1/300,000,000th of our population. The more we depend on an individual to change our country, the less initiative we have to support his or her efforts. It simply isn’t fair to expect greatness from a president while sitting on our hands.
Now, it may seem as if I have little faith in Obama’s potential. With all due respect, I think it is a worse fault to have too much. President Bush, knowing that 90% of America trusted in him in the weeks following 9/11, was able to use that support to launch a “war on terror “that has since decreased said ratings to the mid-twenties. Wariness on the general public’s part may have prevented the conflict in Iraq from turning into a bloodbath.
But even if Obama does inspire Americans to help out in the effort, and even if the public exercises cautious support—a rarity in politics—the candidate will still have two entities to deal with: the Supreme Court and the Houses of Congress. Not that this is a bad thing. Our system of checks and balances makes sure that presidents don’t end up steering the country off the road, even if our legislative process puts the brakes on law-making from time to time. If you’d rather move to a state in which one charismatic, ambitious leader has all the power, you’re free to give Russia or China a spin. Otherwise, don’t expect that Obama’s plans will go unchecked.
Should the Democratic ticket win come November 4, there’s no doubt this country will see some change. The one certainty about America is that it never stays the same.
But the Democrats expecting an overnight solution to any domestic or foreign problem would be wise to remember our current president’s experience. No candidate—black, white, Harvard-educated, war-tested—can “save” the United States single-handedly.
The upsetting truth is that we’ll have to lend a hand.