Author: Henry Dickmeyer
Four days after Senator Barack Obama was elected to his first term as President of the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 240,000 jobs were lost during the month of October and the national unemployment rate was standing at its highest point in 14 years: 6.5 percent. We’re now facing a 7.9 percent unemployment rate – starkly higher than November 2008, but the working-class American could not be more hopeful about our economic road to recovery. Our urge to stay positive and keep looking forward is something worth celebrating, and Americans did that last night.
Electing our first African-American president was a crowning achievement in and of itself. Voters and Bush 43 critics touted new rhetoric and a substantial deviation from where a financial crises and two wars had left this country. The President, in response, delivered one of the most riveting, perplexing and by all means influential campaigns so desperately needed by the Democratic Party, slowly losing their voice in national foreign, tax and regulatory policies.
This year’s campaign strategy was different and Obama absolutely knew it. He was contemptuous of the partisan gridlock, income inequality, voter suppression efforts, the Grover Norquist pledges and the twenty-four hour news cycle. Obama learned in his first term that being an avante-garde optimist with an old-fashioned approach would not work. Congress wasn’t ready for the new kid on the block to take helm of the ship. His goal throughout this campaign was to let history, trust and the moral justifications for his policies guide him; to put progress ahead of politics.
Progress was the theme of last night’s election results. Same-sex marriage was met with approval in Washington, Maine and Maryland, and Minnesota voters shot down efforts to formally establish marriage as being between a man and a woman. According to the Pew Research Center, eight years ago same-sex marriage had 17 percent less national approval than it does today. We’ve turned Missouri Senate GOP candidate Todd Akin into farce and kept the incumbent Claire McCaskill in her Senate seat alongside 18 other female senator-elects, the largest group of female senators in history. Who’s another one of those 19? Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay senator elected in history.
By these accounts, we see that progress isn’t exclusively a nationally quantified idea.
We can talk all we want about what Obama could have or could not have done during his first four years. He’s cracked down on Wall Street with Dodd-Frank, but has been criticized as conspiring class warfare. He’s revved the health-care reform engines because the current health-care system is a lemon, but his proposals have been met with socialist paranoia. The President’s election in 2008, as monumental and uplifting as it was, was the first step of the ladder and he struggled to believe it. His idealism was tested and, by many accounts, did not succeed to his utmost expectations.
By 2016, things will look different. We’re already recovering: the housing market is getting healthy again, we’re akin to a 7.9 percent unemployment rate and we’re seeing sweeping social movement optimism. Things aren’t to our liking, but we’re recovering. Our leader, this time around, understands the diffusion of his socially liberal, chin-up, eyes-on-the-road demeanor. This time, we have an old dog with new tricks in the White House, and the country, I believe, will have his back.
Henry Dickmeyer is a sophomore economics major. He can be reached at [email protected]
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