Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On Weeping And Not Weeping

I've been struck by the number of people, both in the blogosphere and in my circle of acquaintences, who have reported being moved to tears by Obama's election and subsequent inauguration. More surprising still is that this extends even to jaded realists, individuals who will never be accused of being overly emotional. I don't get it.

As best as I can tell people find Obama's election especially meaningful because he is a) Black and b) Very Much Better Than Bush. It is certainly laudable that America has elected a Black president, but that doesn't mean that we've suddenly become a colorblind society (which would be worth weeping over). Similarly, while I am relieved to have someone sane in office, being Better Than Bush isn't terribly impressive. Bush was such a malign force that you can do a better job simply by doing nothing at all. So neither his Blackness nor his not-Bush-ness are sufficient to explain the emotional response that he is evoking.

What is it then that people are seeing in the election of Barack Obama? Did they believe, in some deep corner of their being, that the malice and malfeasance of the Bush Administration would continue unchecked in perpetuity? If that were indeed the case then Obama's victory might genuinely be cause for rejoicing. But the fact remains that Bush's reign had to come to an end eventually; Obama isn't a savior, he's just the guy who won the most votes in a contest we all knew was coming.

At some level it seems like people think Obama is going to change the world, perhaps usher in a new era of liberty and justice for all. Forgive me for my skepticism, but I'm not buying that for one minute. He picked Rahm Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff, a man who appears to be best known for cracking heads to get things done, and invited Rev. Douchenozzle to give the invocation at his inauguration. And then there's the constant talking of building bridges and post-partisanship and whatnot. Obama gives every sign of being a pragmatist; a principled pragmatist, perhaps, but a pragmatist nonetheless. Which means that he's going to make political sausage. It might be kinder, gentler sausage, but nothing can hide the fact that its still sausage. In short, why weep when you know full well that Obama won't stand on principle1?

And that, I think, is why I'm not driven to tears. Given a choice between Republicans and Democrats I'll choose the latter, but only because they're the lesser of two evils. The Obama administration will be better, hopefully far better, than the one which came before, but I see no reason at this point to think it will be especially virtuous. It will likely expand the role of government, will push ill-thought-out policies of the Democratic variety, and generally continue to piss me off in various and sundry ways. So no, I will not weep simply because I no longer feel a boot on my neck; it's going to take more than that.

1 Not to pick on Ed specifically; he just happens to be a convenient exemplar.


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