In The Audacity of Hope, the book Barack Obama penned in advance of his presidential campaign (as all good candidates do these days), he was rather candid about his political image. "I'm new enough on the national political scene," he wrote, "that I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views. As such, I am bound to disappoint some, if not all, of them." As Obama takes the oath of office, he can no longer benefit from people simply assuming he agrees with them. Instead of talking about what he might do with power, as of today he will actually wield it.
As you might guess, it's not quite what his supporters have in mind. Despite Republicans' long-standing claims of being the party of fiscal responsibility and growth, Bush has overseen eight years of economic disaster.
In the late 1990s, Grover Norquist and some other conservative activists realized that all across the country, Americans were landing in airports, driving on roads, and attending junior high schools named after such non-conservatives as Thomas Jefferson, John Kennedy, and Franklin Roosevelt. To remedy this state of affairs, they started the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, whose primary goal was to get something named after the 40th president in every last county in America, not to mention getting Reagan on the $10 bill. (And yes, they have a Web site.
You may have heard recently about the interesting case of Chip Saltsman, the candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, who as part of his campaign sent around a CD of song parodies, including one called "Barack the Magic Negro" that came from Rush Limbaugh's radio show.
Since the remarkable results of Nov. 4, there has been much discussion about the new progressive moment in which America finds itself. But it has actually been evident for some time that we're talking about old issues in new ways. Let's take just one -- health care reform-- which could actually happen next year. One thing we know is that there will be a serious, even vicious fight over the issue. What we don't know is whether President-elect Obama will seize the moment, or succumb to the same fear that has stayed Democrats' hands for so long.
President-elect Barack Obama, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Barack Obama hasn't even taken office yet, and progressives have been debating his presidency with such energy it almost feels like it's time to start arguing about his legacy. Let it never be said that we're not forward-looking.