Some liberals (and myself) will definitely feel some disappointment as Obama’s change becomes more reconciliatory and pragmatic than ideological. In part, these naysayers have already been underwhelmed by the recycling of the Washington status quo for Obama’s cabinet. Nevertheless (and irregardless of the fact that the press is helping), there is an amazing sense of national and ideological reconciliation taking place, and that is indeed very much part of the hope and change that Obama preached on the campaign trail.
Just look at the numbers. Remember all of those Republican haters who cried Armageddon and feared that Obama would destroy the nation with his extreme liberal policies, radical pals, elitist blackness, and the kitchen sink? Now there are actually more Republicans who support Barack Obama than George W. Bush, and in a National Journal Political Insider’s Poll, 96% of Democrats and 82% of Republicans said that Obama would be a “very/somewhat likely successful” president. That sounds like hope to me. And after the culture wars and negative tone of the past two presidencies, those numbers also indicate a remarkable change. Of course, politics are politics, and politicians don’t get elected by agreeing with each other — otherwise they’d never come up with a reason, scandals aside, to vote against incumbents. So when the dust finally settles after the inaugural honeymoon, they’ll all eventually get back to their bickering true selves.
Even if change is watered down by pragmatism and reconciliation is only temporary, there is one cosmetic (even cosmic) change that is so powerful it transcends all the rest and cannot be denied even by Hillary Clinton, John McCain or either of their supporters. And it is about more than just race, for neither Hillary Clinton (who is notoriously polarizing) nor John McCain (who simply lacked the necessary vitality) could have built this historically unique grass roots movement turned media love affair and iconic juggernaut. No one else had what it took to both create and capture the moment.
As former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd said yesterday on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, this change will only be fully apparent right after the inauguration, when the presidential limo pulls up in front of the White House and Barack, Michelle and their two daughters get out and open the door to their new home.