Four years ago, I stood waiting in an endless line for access to the Capital to witness Barack Obama’s inauguration. Thanks to bungled logistical operations conducted by the TSA, I, and many of Obama’s biggest supporters were left out in the cold even as Justice Stevens stumbled over the swearing in of America’s 43rd president. Still, spirits throughout DC, and with my friends and family remained untarnished. Some began to lose faith in the candidate who promised change when he could not convince Congress to close Guantanamo Bay. Others felt betrayed when Congress dropped the so-called public option from the Affordable Care Act.
His detractors have accused him of extremism and his supporters call him too unprincipled. But four years later, Barack Obama’s approval ratings remain high after prevailing easily in an unremarkable election. It is easy to complain, but between Obamacare (as even the President has begun to call it), the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the Dodd-Frank Act, and countless other legislative and moral victories, it is hard for any liberal to be truly upset that America gets another four years of President Obama, even as Guantanamo remains open and the drone strikes continue.
Obama obviously enjoys a high degree of likeability. Bill Clinton’s sax solos look lame in comparison to Obama’s seemingly flawless three-point shots, his beer-making, or his generally cool demeanor. A lot of critics accuse him of having developed a cult of personality (a charge that plays nicely with accusations of socialism and general foreign-seeming-ness) that melts as soon as his teleprompter is gone. Still, it’s easy to say that Obama is our coolest president of all time, which translates into higher approval ratings.
Even as Obama’s inauguration approaches, political opposition to his policies remains staunch. The NRA, after releasing an ad questioning why his daughters received the protection of armed guards, has begun organizing a series of protests during the inaugural weekend, almost as a protest to his swearing in. It’s a widely-accepted fact that presidents tend to accomplish less in their second term than their first, so it’s best to strike while the iron is hot. Obama has made gun control his number one policy priority, a sensible decision in reaction to seemingly endless gun rampages — one that is emotionally intuitive.
When President Obama is sworn in for the second time, he will be given an opportunity to cement his legacy. The year 2008 marked the first time many people of our generation felt truly inspired by politics, after the relative despondence of the Bush years. It feels obvious that his presidency marked a pivotal point of departure from the usual scheme of things, marked by the fierce and disproportionate reactions against him. This is clearly as important a moment in history and hopefully no one will be left standing out in the cold this time.
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