As I write these words, we are in the last hours of the Bush presidency. In a little more than two hours Barack Obama will be inaugurated as the country's first black president. I've thought quite a bit in the last few days about what this means to me and to the country. Here are a few of my thoughts.
First, as should be obvious, I am not a political supporter of Mr. Obama. Out of all the major candidates in both parties, he was, with the possible exception of John Edwards, the person I least wanted to win. But he did, so I must come to terms with it.
He, however, will hold the office of President of the United States. I will not indulge in the mindless hatred that the left engaged in for the last eight years. Barack Obama will be my president. If some prominent conservative goes to London and expresses shame that Mr. Obama is president, I will condemn him or her as much as I did the Dixie Chicks. Even though I disagree profoundly with the platform on which he ran, I can nonetheless support him as president because of the unique nature the office. Unlike many other democracies, the President of the United States combine in one person the dual offices of Head of State and Head of Government. As Head of State, Mr. Obama will embody the United Stated to the world. He is the a personal manifestation of American democracy, and as such he deserves respect. And as a loyal citizen of this nation, he will have my respect.
As Head of Government, however, his words and actions, deserve only the respect they earn. If he advocates something that I see as damaging or dangerous to the country, then I, as loyal citizen, have the right and even the responsibility to criticize and oppose him.
All of that could be said about any politician, however. It would be wrong-headed of me to pretend that Mr. Obama's election was only about differing policies. His election demonstrates in a fundamental way the distance that race relations in this country have come in the last sixty years. This a great and glorious thing. It, however, says something that the first black man with minimal qualifications (Jackson and Sharpton don't count) to run for president won. I think that race relations have been much better for much longer than has been commonly presented. I would have preferred to have this be proven by a conservative black, but the times are what they are.
So when after every thing is said, where do I come down on the Obama presidency. As a pollster might ask, do I hope he succeeds? It depends on what one means by succeeds. Do I hope that he will offer that leadership that protects America from its enemies, and that the economy will revive and become again a vibrant powerhouse. Of course I do. Do I hope that he will succeed in enacting his policies and reshaping the American economy on more liberal lines. Well, no I don't. Because I think that he will succeed in the latter, I fear that he will fail in the former.