While we congratulate Barack Obama for his win for the office of President of the United States, I am hearing a lot about how this election has ushered in change. Unfortunately, as we look at the presidential and, more specifically, the rest of the elections that took place, I am not seeing as much change as one is led to believe.
Sure, the President is now a Democrat instead of a Republican. But for those of us who are neither it doesn’t really mean much. The fact is that our laws and programs come from the Congress which was controlled by Democrats and still is. With only a few exceptions incumbents won the night again, last night. The same Congress that had lower approval ratings than President Bush has is still on control of our country. The same Congress that put into place programs and legislation that increased the instability of our markets, rejected calls for reform and continues to violate our individual liberties are still going to be controlling the laws and budgets that will be written in the next two years, at least. The same Congress that increased our debt every year for the past several decades will still be doing the same, reallocating funds that they don’t have, spending the money that we work hard for, in order to keep their positions of power.
This is similar to 1977 and 1992 when a Democratic President retook the White House while their party controlled Congress. And both times the newly elected President was greeted with the sudden knowledge that it was Congress that runs Washington, not the President. After all, the reality is that most of Congress was there before the President was elected and most will still be there after he leaves.
And while President Elect Obama was able to win a hard fought election, the margin of victory was not what one would call a landslide. I hear about the record voting but looking at the numbers tells a different story. Granted, not all votes have been counted yet, but it appears at this time that fewer people voted in 2008 than in 2004. 121,068,604 people voted in 2004 and at this time in the counting it appears that only 118,459,171 people voted. A margin of 2,609,433 people. This is not insignificant. And Barack Obama won with just about 722 thousand more votes than George Bush received in 2004.
To me it appears that a lot of people just stayed home this year, contrary to the stories you hear on the news. While a lot of younger voters, especially college-age voters, came out to vote it seems that the middle age and older voters were turned off by the election all together. Neither candidate was speaking to their needs, hopes and desires. And in my opinion the election cycle is way too long. After two years of this election one thing is very clear, many of us are glad it is over regardless of the outcome.
The reality is that very little is going to actually change in the country. The same people who were running businesses will continue to run them. The same people who were running Congress will continue to run it. Foreign Policies will change a little and an attempt to reshape a Domestic Agenda will take place, but the American People are going to be wary of anything too out of the mainstream and will not stand much for sharp changes in how we are being governed, no matter what the hype has been.
The debt will still increase, the dollar will continue to be weak and the real hard choices that need to be made to save our government are going to not be made by the same people who refuse to make them now. Until we take a look at our Congress and what they are, and aren’t, doing and attempt to change that there will be little that a newly elected President with a relatively slim margin of victory is going to be able to do about that. And with a President that supported the current Congress by voting with them 97% of the time, there seems little intent to deviate their agenda from the path they have been on.
If President Elect Obama truly wants change, and that change is the right kind of change, he will have to work harder than he has worked to get elected in order to move the mountains of stability that exist in the halls of Congress these days. He will have to fight hard with his fellow Democrats to reduce spending, which will mean hard cuts in programs and the curtailing of much of what he promised to do in order to win the election. Otherwise he will be doing very little different than the previous administrations that tried to accomplish so much and achieved so little. Our individual liberty is assaulted and eroded, our freedoms curtailed and allowing individuals to success by being able to fail is considered cruel. The things that made America great are no longer a fabric of our lives and unless focus is finally brought to bear on those harsh realities, all of the rhetoric, all of the empty promises, all of the hope for something better will become a bitter pill to swallow.
I wish Barack Obama all of best, I truly believe he will need it.