Good morning, friends. We made it. Eight years of lies, disregard for the Constitution, and world-wrecking incompetence are behind us, although I suspect we’ll all be living with the damage, direct and collateral, for decades. It is amazing, though: A man who two generations ago would have had problems being allowed to even vote for President in a large swath of this country is now taking the office. Obama appears to be thoughtful and interested in facts, which already places him far beyond the outgoing administration. The U.S. needs a little good news, and today, for a change, we have some.
Obama assumes responsibility for a unique collection of environmental, military, political, and social catastrophes. No human can reverse all that in a mere four or eight years. He can turn the country in the right direction, though, no matter how far behind course we are, no matter how far this country has to go to live up to its ideals. Better to be in the first few feet of a marathon in the right direction than to continue stubbornly limping in the wrong direction. Remember: If the election had gone the other way, even the committed atheists among us would have been going to sleep tonight praying desperately for four years of good health for John McCain so his vice president doesn’t take over. I am thrilled that Obama is being sworn in as President, particularly considering the alternative. And I’m thrilled even without that: the word “unimaginable” is overused in our culture, often used to mean “not very common.” But his ascendance, until very recently, was unimaginable. Nice to have an unimaginable positive surprise, for a change.
Obama is not leading us into Paradise. He is a conventional middle-of-the-road Democrat in many ways, and he has already begun backpedaling from some of his more progressive campaign positions. Despite his reading a good book about the last American president who was in a similar mess, it appears that Obama’s economic turnaround plan may be too timid for today’s emergency.
Timid for whom, though? I think for the country, but I probably mean too timid for those of us on the left side of most arguments. (I’ll be happy to see Gene Robinson up there today, but don’t get me started on Obama’s refusal to support marriage equality.) We on the left represent, at best, maybe half the country. Obama’s job is to rescue the whole damn country, not just approved-by-committed-lefties issues. If we on the left were not criticizing him for being too timid, he would not be doing his job leading the whole country.
Where does that leave me/us? With one foot inside and one outside. Is that enough? No. But it’s a tremendous improvement over trying to overcome an administration that built its legacy around torture, misdirection, and failure. The country tonight will be a better place than it was last night. Enjoy it. Throw a party. Sleep well. And tomorrow morning, come out fighting.