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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Symbolic President

Given what I have witnessed over the last few days, and certainly all day today, is there any wonder that John McCain lost in November? After all, McCain is merely a hero, a patriot, and a person that has spent his entire life in public service. He is not however a symbol of everything and anything. He doesn't symbolize hope, change, a new generation, coolness, and any number of other things that Obama clearly symbolizes.

This morning David Axelrod explained that because BARACK OBAMA was being sworn in today, many young people would view themselves differently and the world would view us differently. I found this comment to be remarkably arrogant, but then again, Obama symbolizes so much to so many people.

Last night on the Factor, O'Reilly discussed this subject with Margaret Hoover and Monica Crowley. He asked both what hope and change meant specifically. Neither had a specific and both said that Obama used hope and change to project onto the voter whatever each individual voter wanted. There's no doubt that Obama used symbolism extremely effectively in campaigning. Yet, I am struck by how much symbolism has become a part of his persona. Here is how Arianna Huffington put it.

If the expectations are that he's going to be the savior, absolutely, they can never be met," Huffington says. But she believes that "Obama can be the catalyst for fundamental change in how we all act as citizens."

This will be the 43rd transfer of power and yet the pageantry for this one is unlike any other. Why? It appears that President Barack Obama symbolizes so much more than anyone that came before him.

Now, I understand the power of symbolism in politics. When the Berlin Wall came down, it was much more than merely a wall being torn down. It symbolized so much more than that. When the statue of Saddam Hussain came down in Baghdad, that also symbolized so much more than merely a statue being torn down. Yet, much more than the symbolism in these two events, it was the hard work that brought us to that moment that made them symbols. The Berlin Wall didn't merely come down, but was torn down after years of struggle.

Barack Obama symbolized hope and change just because he does. All of this is fine, and Obama used it to his advantage. Yet, beyond the symbolism, no one can really say what specifically Obama will do. The only specific policy idea so far is a massive nearly one trillion Dollar government stimulus package. So, so far, when it comes to specific policy ideas, he merely symbolizes traditional big government liberalism. That's not very much hope or change.

One thing the ground swell of symbolism and all the acolytes that have been trapped in it will soon realize is that symbolism has limited meaning when you govern. Obama can symbolize hope and change all he wants but that on its own won't fix the economy. I don't think big government liberalism will fix it either and yet, so far, that's all he has. In the next couple days, or more likely months, and possibly years, people will wake up from this orgy of symbolism and realize that it takes specific policies, specific actions, that all leads to effective governance. In all the symbolism, Obama hasn't yet let us in on how he plans to accomplish any of that. Soon, the world will realize that it takes a lot more than symbolism to govern.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why so negative Mike?

I am excited to see a new President in office. Aren't you?

America is in the poo right now.

Give hima chance eh?