Setting the Record Straight

November 6, 2008

And Now, Disappointment

Raining On the Parade

     Thirty-four years ago as of this past July, a member of the U.S. House from Texas said: “Earlier today we heard the beginning to the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States—‘We, the people.’ It is a very eloquent beginning. But when that document was completed on the 17th of September in 1787, I was not included in that ‘We, the people.’ I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decisions I have finally been included in ‘We, the people.”sr-jordan3
     Still, on that hot July day when Barbara Jordan, a large black woman who spoke with a stentorian voice about the impending impeachment of President Nixon, could look around her on her side of Congress and see few black faces. On the other side of the building, there was one in the Senate. She died before she saw a black face elected to the presidencysr-obamapreselect.
     The ascendancy of Barack Obama has shown the nation, and the rest of the world, that the United States not only has not lost all of its senses, it truly is a nation where not only can anybody succeed regardless of skin color, religion or culture, anybody can even become president.
     That was the source of the excitement that brought millions into the streets around the United States and in much of the rest of the world on the night of Nov. 4, to celebrate and not to protest.
sr-obamarain     Unfortunately, that is as good as it gets. Now comes the disappoint- ment, the realization there is no way Obama or anyone else can achieve what he pro- mised during the campaign and his supporters came to expect.
     Obama begins to govern the executive branch on Jan. 20 with about the same Democratic majority in the Senate and a slightly smaller majority in the House than his predecessor Bill Clinton had when he, too, was elected as an exciting and highly intelligent new leader.
     Just two years after Clinton took office in 1993 with high expectations similar to those Obama now enjoys, the American public became so disenchanted, they gave Congress back to the Republicans for the first time in half a century, beginning the long, mean, nasty and divisive slide that put the United States in the sorry condition it finds itself today.
     Obama has inherited much, much more of a mess than Clinton inherited. If he is wise, he will recognize the pitfalls the Clinton administration fell into. His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who was a top adviser in the Clinton White House, should be able to help him avoid making the same mistakes.
     Even then, the voters who sent Obama to the White House are going to be disappointed, thanks in part to the hyperbolic rhetoric of presidential campaigns. Both candidates repeated impossible claims, usually beginning with “I will,” known full well they would not be able to fulfill them. John McCain has no pressure on him now to deliver on his promises; Obama does.
     In their grandiose claims, each ignored the fact the only power they have to deliver on just about all of their promises was the influence they could bring to bear on Congress.
     The extent to which Obama is able to satisfy those who gave him the job relies to a great extent on a reading of the election tea leaves. He was not given the type of majority that could cram through legislation, but he was given what could be a sea-change in the Republican party.
     Rep. Christopher Shays was a House Republican from Connecticut. He often broke with his party as one of the most moderate members of that party. On Nov. 4, the voters ousted the only House Republican from a northeastern state.
     The Obama win also punched holes in GOP strongholds around the country that Democrats had largely written off. The election showed the American electorate was fed up with 14 years of GOP leadership, and the Republicans remaining in Congress are not likely to behave as the petulant minority they were in previous Democratic majorities.
     That means Senate Republicans are less likely to use the filibuster threat to block the legislation of the Democratic majority. Even if a threat is made by a petulant GOP senator, such as Ted Stevens would be expected to be if Alaskans end up sending him back to the Senate, he is less likely to get the support of his colleagues in denying the 60 votes to invoke cloture, shutting off a filibuster.
     And getting legislation through Congress is only a part of the long, hard slog the Obama administration faces in trying to satisfy an American electorate justly proud of what it did in 2008.



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