But what if Obama does win?

27 Oct

As the McCain-Palin ticket turns in on itself, the media narrative is building towards an Obama win by some margin.

On Sunday’s Meet the Press, an awkward and mumbling John McCain maintained that the polls do not reflect the reality on the ground. He argued that the American people will put their trust in him as the man best equipped to be President on day-one. Of course the Senator from Arizona knows the trouble he’s in, but for appearances sake, he must play up his chances.

But what if the polls can be trusted?

What if, on January 20 2009, The United States of America really does inaugurate Barack Obama as its first African-American President? What can we actually expect from a progressive executive in these difficult times?

America’s economic situation is as dire as it has been for 80-years. An economy that has been in overdrive since the early nineties, powered by an injection of cheap credit, has finally blown a gasket. Americans are finding that credit has dried up.

Millions of Americans are heavily indebted and are finding mortgage repayments impossible. They’re demanding tax cuts, but the federal budget is also drastically in the red and both candidates have promised to work to address it – even though the purse-strings are very much the preserve of Congress. The collective debt of the U.S., oft reported as in excess of $10-trillion dollars, is, including off-balance sheet liabilities, closer to five times as much.

How can a president who promises a capital-intensive Apollo-like energy project, a balanced budget, a strong foreign policy, tax cuts and better healthcare coverage, possibly deliver?

What America needs, as Michael Kinsley argued last week, is a leader who is committed to “telling people what they don’t want to hear and leading them where they don’t want to go.” If America was really going into the recovery position – and things are surely that bad, it would start by telling its citizens that the good times are suspended until further notice. Indeed neither of the candidates are being honest with the American people.

No-one, not even a president who walks on water, can possibly satisfy the huge expectation that the Obama campaign has cultivated. The opportunity for political disillusionment is colossal.

When January comes around the same problems will persist. The national debt will be gargantuan, the military will be overstretched, and millions of Americans will be struggling to make rent and their families without healthcare coverage. Obama will be limited by the realities of office as to what he can do to remedy these issues, especially considering the dire situation he will inherit from President Bush. So there is little doubt that many thousands of progressive activists will be disappointed by the time it takes to create real change. As usual, the left may become it’s own worst enemy and attack its own.

In fact, the left will probably be piling onto an administration already under siege…

The Republicans have had months to prepare for opposition. The rightwing talk-show hacks are already in 5th gear. They will hit Obama hard on day one (politicos will remember Clinton’s wings were clipped even before his inauguration), in an attempt to paralyse his administration.

America’s progressives, who will have given so much to get Obama elected, must be prepared to continue to support him through the inevitable trials of office.

There is only so much an inspirational president can achieve. I hope American progressives are prepared for a slow, long haul. America, surely, deserves it.


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