Not too long ago, after a historic and unprecedented election, Santa Cruzans paraded down Pacific Avenue in celebration of what was, and still remains, a remarkable achievement: the election of the first African-American President of the United States of America.
However, now that the Obama t-shirts have been cast off to the sale bin at Urban Outfitters, it seems that most Americans have lost that Obama gusto and slipped into an all too familiar state of political disillusionment.
In short, the honeymoon is over. To be fair, Obama never stood a chance.
As Americans, we seem to have a desire for instant gratification. We buy things on credit when we can’t wait until they’re affordable; we exploit natural resources at unsustainable rates knowing it may cost us our future; and we hastily entered two wars to “catch the bad guys” without a clear plan of withdrawal.
And now, not even a year into the presidency of a man who inherited the biggest mess of the century, we want change, and we want it now.
I am not suggesting that we return to that collective state of Inauguration Day euphoria, however intoxicating it may have been. After all, the phase of unequivocally praising Obama as an infallible character and instant pop culture icon was, perhaps, a bit shortsighted. It was only a matter of time until the country realized that Obama is, in fact, a politician and a damn good one at that.
It’s time for us to find the middle ground between supporting a candidate who can do no wrong and giving up on a president who has done nothing right.
Getting this man elected would have seemed utterly impossible just a few years ago. Yet, remarkably, we pulled it off, thanks in large part to the mobilization of our generation. Now, less than a fourth of the way through Obama’s first term, we are teetering on the precipice of apathy because Mr. President hasn’t managed to fix health care, close Guantanamo Bay, end two wars he didn’t start, or solve the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression in a timely enough fashion.
The disaster Obama inherited is by no means an excuse for him to dither. He ran for this office with full knowledge of the shaky state of the union. But it is certainly reason enough for us to give the man a little more time before writing him off completely. It would be simply too easy to slip back into the familiar pessimistic mantra of the Bush years, resigning ourselves to the fact that the government is, and always will be, corrupt.
As demonstrated by the mammoth effort it took just to get Obama elected, it’s likely that a total overthrow of our government system isn’t going to happen any time soon. This seems to be the most radical directional shift that our country can handle for now, so let’s not let it go to waste.
While tangible examples of change may not be as numerous as some had hoped, Obama’s presidency thus far has indeed signaled significant change. In addition to being able to pronounce the word nuclear, he’s approached problems with a more measured and pragmatic approach, as opposed to being driven by partisan ideology. He has attempted to engage the rest of world through his recent talks at the United Nations and has made efforts to improve the image of the United States abroad.
Perhaps most importantly, he has shown that he wants the American people to be involved in the political process and aware of what goes on behind closed cabinet doors. By recently appearing on numerous mainstream shows such as “60 Minutes” and “Meet the Press,” Obama attempted to make his debated health care proposal more accessible to the American people, whether they agree with him or not.
After two terms of a president that treated our civil liberties as negotiable and a subsequent election process that our generation fought hard to win, it’s more important than ever to remain engaged. Be critical of the president, stay informed on the issues and extend your political awareness beyond a trendy campaign.
As Obama noted in his historic election-night speech, “The road ahead will be long … we may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I’ve never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.”