Today, America will inaugurate a new president, our 44th, Barack Obama. Ironically, the inauguration comes one day after we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, and now, history is being made. Some thoughts, in no particular order:
1. All Americans should celebrate the fact that we have gotten to the point in this nation where race–at least being black–is no longer an impediment to any office in the land. This is historic, and should be a cause for encouragement. We’ve come a long way in that regard, and after having visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis back in the summer, I can even more appreciate this occasion.
2. All Americans should celebrate the taken-for-granted fact that once again, we will see power handed over from one party to another in an orderly, even cordial, fashion. This doesn’t happen in many countries around the world, where violence and bloodshed is the norm. It doesn’t matter what our political affiliation; part of today’s celebration must be about that fact, transcending any particular party or president.
3. As Christians, we must pray for, and support, our president. This does not mean, of course, agreeing with him when he is wrong. Every president makes mistakes; every president holds some positions and makes some decisions which run counter to Biblical teaching. I’m very concerned about many of the policy positions of this president, believing many of his stances–which I’m hopeful he’ll moderate–will do harm to this country. But he is my president, whether I voted for him or not, and I need to pray for him, and to remember that Ephesians 4:29 applies even to presidents and parties with whose policies and priorities I might disagree.
4. Now to an interesting question for those of us who do so substantially disagree with Mr. Obama’s policies: do we hope and pray that he succeeds? I was listening briefly to Rush Limbaugh the other day, and he was taking to task those who answer “yes” to that question, because from his perspective, Obama “succeeding” will mean the implementation of liberal policies that Rush fears. On the other hand, Bill O’Reilly and others say the opposite, that we hope for him to be successful, because he is our president, and his success will mean our success as a nation. Whither the conservative on this?
It seems to me that what is needed is the parsing of words, the defining of terms, for the conversation to make sense. As a libertarian/conservative, Barack Obama’s socialist/liberal leanings are just about at the polar opposite of my own persuasion politically; I daresay I am far further away from Obama politically than 95% of Republicans, thought of as the “opposition party” (I’m further away than Rush Limbaugh, I’d wager!). Of course I hope that he fails in the implementation of policies that will do long-range damage to our nation, as I believe many of his policies would. I do not want to see our nation’s healthcare system, flawed as it may be, turned into a socialist single-payer system. “Change” can be for the better, but it also can be for the worse, and that’s true in economic policy, in social policy, in matters of national security, etc. If “success” for Barack Obama’s presidency means that we take further steps toward socialism, toward liberal intolerance (in a sane time, that term would be an oxymoron, wouldn’t it?), toward increased barbarism (Obama’s positions on abortion have the ironic effect of accelerating the genocide of the black race–that’s not even arguable, folks), etc., then I hope that he fails, and fails miserably. If, on the other hand, Barack Obama awakens tomorrow morning to realities of the world the way it actually is, instead of the fairy-tale world of radical liberalism, and recognizes that he has an opportunity to apply real-world solutions to our problems, ignoring the sirens of the loony left and working with knowledgeable people to fix our problems, and if those fixes include maintaining a strong national defense, market-driven solutions to our economic woes, and rethinking things like his support for FOCA, then to the degree he succeeds in actually helping our nation both short-term and long-term, I pray for and hope for his success. I’m not optimistic, but there are some signs–as even Newt Gingrich pointed out this morning–that Mr. Obama is smart enough to realize that taking marching orders from the kook fringe is a dead-end street, and I hope that this is, and continues to be the case. To the degree America really advances under his administration, or even fails to lose any more ground as a nation, I wish for his success; to the degree that his policies might wreak havoc with our Constitution, our moral sanity, and our national defense, I will hope for his abject failure.
5. Finally, Barack Obama is a man. He is a politician. He has some positive traits and some negative ones. He is, from my perspective, a too-inexperienced, too-left-wing man to be trusted with the leadership of our nation; I did not, indeed could not, vote for him, nor really understand why anyone else would either. I found exactly none of his policy positions, insofar as I could tell, to line up with my own beliefs, though I will add that some of his actions since election have seemed like moves, if not toward the right, at least toward the center, and if he governs from the center, instead of from the loony DailyKos/MoveOn.org left–and there’s some reason to believe that he might–then we might just be OK. He is a man of extraordinary persona, a man whose speechmaking ability (the best since Reagan, easily) inspire confidence–misplaced, in my opinion, but confidence–in millions. His campaign, and now his inauguration, have taken on a rockstar aura; the adulation some have for him exceeds all sense of proportion. To these things, I would simply say that to the degree that we put our trust in men (or women), politicians, economists, generals, et al, we are surely bound to be sorely disappointed. Barack Obama enjoys soaring approval ratings right now–but we all ought to remember that George W. Bush had even higher ones at one point in his presidency, and such fortunes can change rapidly. Through it all, our trust must be firmly in God.