With President-elect Barack Obama having won by a convincing margin of 201 electoral votes and no recount in sight, it is finally time for the change that Obama has been preaching on the campaign trail since February 2007. However, he has his work cut out for him, as his unabashed idealism will now be thoroughly put to the test, especially as the United States and the rest of the world inches toward a depression. He has set the bar high for himself, as both Democrats and Republicans expect him to live up to the hype and high expectations by promoting political, social and economic progression through bipartisan unity.
Mere days after his presidential victory, conservative dissenters have already come out of their shadow of disappointment, expressing fear over the path down which Obama will lead the country. In particular, Republican Georgia Congressman, Paul Broun, took a brash view in his opposition to Obama, comparing the election of Obama to the rise of a Marxist nation with a national security force akin to the Gestapo.
“You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I’m not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I’m saying is there is the potential of going down that road,” Broun said.
While Broun fears that the United States is headed down a socialist path, supporters of gun rights are flocking to gun stores en masse, especially in John McCain’s home state of Arizona, which is clear evidence that some Americans have not heeded McCain’s call to support Obama as Republicans hit a new nadir.
According to the FBI, background checks on individuals purchasing guns jumped to 374,000 from Nov. 3 to Nov. 9, a 49 percent increase from the same period last year and a response to what Americans think will be Obama’s ban on the purchase of firearms.
“I have six guns, and [Obama’s] not going to touch my guns either,” said Tom Vogel, Executive Director of the West Virginia Democratic Executive Committee.
Similarly, Chris Cox, a National Rifle Association lobbyist, stresses that despite Obama’s insistence that he supports the Second Amendment, his actions suggest otherwise.
“He supported a 500 percent tax increase on guns and ammunition. So this guy is bad news when it comes to the Second Amendment and if people are buying guns, it doesn’t really surprise me,” Cox said.
However, there are more important issues at hand than gun rights and neo-fascist paranoia. And for this country to learn from its past mistakes, it must move beyond senseless acts, such as a group of amateurish youths in Idaho chanting “assassinate Obama” on a bus ride to school, or a priest in South Carolina refusing to give communion to parishioners who voted for a pro-choice Obama. If Americans can’t get past meaningless conflict such as this, the United States simply won’t be able to facilitate change in the near future.
But the real change must occur in Washington, and it must be able to shed the tainted image from the Bush administration and attempt to pick up lost ground. With a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in Congress, Obama will need to dispel notions by conservatives of his purported liberal voting record in the Senate and show that he is capable of developing a close relationship with Republicans, rather than distancing himself from them, especially with regards to the fate of the Iraq and Afghan wars and the current economic crisis.
Obama has already taken a couple steps toward promoting cooperation between the two parties and has begun implementing his ideas, including plans to create a nonpartisan commission to investigate methods of interrogation and torture under Bush’s presidency. Additionally, he has taken early, swift action by meeting with his economic advisory team to create a fiscal stimulus plan for the rapidly increasing number of jobless Americans and to assist the faltering American auto industry, where the Big Three (General Motors, Ford, Chrysler) are seeking $25 billion in emergency loans. The failure of even one of these three giants would trigger a catastrophic economic blow, resulting in a loss of hundreds of thousands of unionized jobs, which some claim have been the source of the American auto industry’s inability to be competitive and profitable. Regardless, this large Obama constituency could backfire on him if they were to lose their jobs, a reality Obama must face in the coming months.
At the end of the day, from a domestic standpoint, Obama’s fate will rest upon his ability to deliver upon his promises to create jobs as well as offer middle-class tax benefits, affordable health care and education affordability, all of which will be an incredibly difficult feat given the massive slowdown in economic growth and more than $10 trillion in national debt.
And just as importantly, Obama will need to establish political transparency, accountability, ethical integrity and credibility. He must demonstrate to Americans that politicians from both sides of the spectrum can come to a reasonable consensus on foreign and domestic issues and not let special interests and lobbying groups interfere with the policy-making process and determine the fate of the United States. This will be the key to bipartisan unity and, in effect, successful decision making.
Looking forward, one should look to President Abraham Lincoln’s second annual message to Congress in 1862 as a guiding philosophy that can hopefully become ingrained into American minds and make Obama’s vision of change a reality: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
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