Congratulations, President-elect Obama. The victory you achieved election night was nothing short of inspiring. It was a truly awesome moment that once again proved the greatness of America. However, now that all the confetti has fallen, the victory and concession speeches have been made, and Cabinet members are being considered, let me remind you: Campaigning is one thing, while actually running the country is quite another.
Judging by the student-comprised mob that overtook Oakland, one would think that all of our problems were solved on election night — the budget would now be balanced, the economy rescued, and health care extended to all. But this election itself was not the change we need, but merely presents the opportunity for a Barack Obama-led administration to provide the change we need. The real question that remains is whether President-elect Obama can live up to these great expectations.
What Obama must do in the coming weeks before his inauguration is lower the expectations of his presidency. Many of President-elect Obama’s campaign promises seemed acceptable in theory, but are rather infeasible considering the political climate in Washington, D.C. Obama must be up-front and realistic about which promises he can and cannot keep. If he fails to do so, he could find it very tough to accomplish much of anything.
Take, for example, Obama’s proposals on Iraq and Afghanistan. The president-elect proposed a 16-month timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. Withdrawals have already begun under President Bush, though Obama would like to expedite the process and probably will be able to with the new Democratic majority in Congress. Many ardent Obama supporters who cried “end the war” would be very pleased with this. But this does not mean war will be over: Obama wants to refocus the central front of the war to Afghanistan by sending over 10,000 additional troops there and giving them the authority to strike terrorists in neighboring Pakistan. Even if President-elect Obama is able to push this idea through Congress, he may very easily lose the support of the key antiwar component of his Democratic support base, as well as alienate the rest of Congress that he will need in the future.
On Iraq, Afghanistan, and a handful of other issues, Obama must quickly alter his campaign promises to the harsh politics of Washington, or face the prospects of being unsuccessful as president.
I did not vote for Barack Obama. This was not because I wasn’t inspired by him — several of his speeches moved me immensely — but because I didn’t see enough of a policy track record for me to believe he could back up his promises. I do hope that he proves me wrong. As an American, I want nothing more than for Barack Obama to be one of the greatest presidents ever. He will be my president, and I fully support him. However, as my favorite NFL coach, Tom Coughlin, reminds his team each week, “Talk is cheap, play the game.” President-elect Obama — it’s time to prove it, and I wish you the best of luck.