On the event of the second, and I emphasize second, inauguration of President Barack Obama, I find myself scratching my head at the American Left, a group among whose ranks I proudly number myself. The Left has allowed itself to use the occasion to place Mr. Obama in the lofty heights of the political mythos of our country. From Beyonce’s incredible rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (no, you go sing it live) to “OMG what is Michelle Obama wearing,” it disturbs me that the man who claimed he could change everything has now been placed alongside Reagan, Roosevelt and Lincoln.
While I don’t think Mr. Obama will be added to the face of Mt. Rushmore, to place him on a symbolic throne while he is still in office exemplifies the American Left doing exactly that which they criticized the Right for, insofar as reverence to the Constitution is concerned. In addition, it suggests that the Left is unwilling to own up to the President’s greatest failures.
What do I mean? First off, as suggested by Gawker’s “Unemployment Stories vol. 23,” the unemployment rate, now at 7.8 percent has not improved, and is in fact the same as it was on the day four years ago when Mr. Obama entered office. So much for the fourth anniversary of the day from which everything was supposed to change.
As a soon-to-be-graduated college senior with a degree in a field which others assure me is as useless as it is trivial, the specter of unemployment, student loan default and general lack of fulfillment haunts me from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. And while I am the first to admit that I am as pessimistic about myself as Beyonce’s radiant hair is long, I will also begrudgingly admit that this pessimism has been egged on by Mr. Obama’s record on reducing unemployment. While I find solace and hope in my intelligence, abilities as a writer and faith in my work ethic, I no longer find such hope in the man whose election was built on the hope of putting America and its economy right again.
Second, and as an intoxicated post-graduate student I met in New York pronounced, the United States is a country of symbols. While the United States is a stand alone on the cheese plate of the world’s nation-states, Mr. Obama’s election to me represented, at first, a serious and profound departure from our backwards reliance on these symbols. Past presidents, the Constitution, apple pie and the white privilege to say “why don’t they just learn English” were put on the back burner when we, as a nation, elected someone who did not look the part, did not have white privilege nor a name that would suggest that he would one day rise to our highest political office. While it is at times refreshing to see that the American political mythos has expanded itself far enough to include the likes of a black man, doing so misplaces why we elected Obama in the first place. We needed change. But more importantly, his premature inclusion in these ranks suggests that the Left believes race is no longer an issue in the land of the free, that is, if you are not black, Hispanic, gay, poor, etc.
Still, I remain proud to say that I was, like millions of other Americans, fortunate to cast my vote for our president. Mr. Obama continues to be a brave new leader in the terrifying new world that is the service-based economy. He stands in opposition to the ever more real fears that upward mobility has become a thing of the past, that your name signifies your lot, that class is rigid.
But he also cannot be judged as a savior just yet. Doing so endangers our ability to hold our elected officials accountable, and while my feelings for Obama have soured from wide-eyed political love to a tempered but persistent political crush, I write this partially because I do not want to completely succumb to this symbol making. Unlike the Affordable Care Act, increasing taxes, advocating gun control and making it easier for all people to safely and fairly become United States citizens, political symbol-making undermines our ability to uphold a strong democracy. So let’s pump the brakes and wait four more years before we canonize the president.