We can still hope he reappears. That Barack Obama who drew inspiration from so many during his 2008 presidential campaign. A man who was willing to unite the people but was ready to go against the status quo.
That Obama that seemed to vanish into thin air a day after his inauguration and that today we perceive as a product of a collective hallucination instigated by the global anxiety brought to us courtesy of George W. Bush.
That Obama that inspired millions from Chicago to Berlin and temporarily cast off an ever-present shroud of cynicism in such a way that we celebrated him being awarded with a Nobel peace prize.
Four years after a bittersweet administration and watered down opportunities for landmark legislation due to his unholy obsession with bipartisanship, that Obama we fell in love with has the opportunity to rise from the ashes.
A few years ago, Bill Maher admitted disappointment with Obama, but said he remained hopeful that after being reelected, his timidity would vaporize, making room for that original Obama and his true persona, that had been sublimated over fear of ostracism and had forced him to walk the tight rope and color within the lines to avoid the anger of pretty much everyone.
And Maher’s logic made sense. In the US, not achieving reelection is synonym with presidential failure. Don’t believe me? Ask Jimmy Carter, who despite his “nice guy” demeanor is seen by the American ethos as the worst US president in history.
The reelection process is a referendum with results that are carved in the stone of history books forever, and Obama (the first African-American president, no less) did not have the luxury of losing. “We gave the black guy a chance and he failed” was not an apt message for posterity, so it’s understandable that he chose to shut up and be complacent as Republicans plotted the downfall of his government.
He even had to face the fun task of dealing (still does, actually) with a Tea Party take over of the House of Representatives explicitly headed to Destination: Obama failure.
Then two months ago he killed his opponent Mitt Romney in the polls (even in Romney’s home state), and while many expected him to come out strong after such a successful battle, not many hoped for significant gybe in his negotiation strategy. And now that he’s comfortably won, there’s a chance for a “hard to starboard” moment.
Clearly it’s still early to analyze the second Obama administration, especially since it hasn’t even started yet. And pre-inauguration occurrences such as fiscal cliffs, debt ceilings and budget cuts suggest there won’t be much of a honey moon period to enjoy. But going by certain, barely noticeable changes in Obama’s public discourse, there’s something that hints at a different Obama that is more confrontational or – may God have mercy on all of us – is more to the left of the political spectrum.
It is clear that his presidency will not make a U-turn on January 20th and he will not rebrand the US to the United Soviet States of America (although many believe that is his ulterior motive. Don’t believe me? Check out this documentary called 2016 – Obama’s America and have a chuckle).
[Spoiler alert: it’s not a comedy].
(Easter egg: the trailer is clearly trying to demonstrate how a second Obama presidency is going to send the US to the netherworld, so what better way to exemplify this than using footage of a demonstration in Plaza de Mayo? Check the 00:25 mark. You’re welcome)
But I digress.
Like I said, there were some noticeable changes in Obama’s rhetoric, probably imperceptible for the untrained eye, but not for a political junkie such as yours truly:
A) During the recent high noon duel between democrats and republicans in order to avoid the fiscal cliff, Obama didn’t blink. He event went to say he would not allow an extension of the Bush era tax cuts for the rich, a raison d’être for the Republican party. And yet, Obama won.
B) After the Sandy Hook massacre, Obama railed against the most toxic debate inside the beltway: gun control. America’s obsession with the Second Amendment deserves a lengthy debate that we will not cover here (at least not for now), but let’s just say that calling for stricter gun control is equivalent to political suicide. But Obama chose to make use of the favorable winds sparked by the death of 20 children and announced his decision to create a task force in order to come up with comprehensive policy that tackles the rise of gun violence in the country.
As widespread panic took over the standard-bearers of the constitutional amendment, millions took to the streets en masse in order to stock up before Obama and his army of pacifists broke into their homes and seized their MP-5s safely stored under their night tables and next to their bibles.
C) The latest news that Obama is mulling a climate change summit in Washington DC. Since such a hot topic (really lame pun intended) is cause for divisiveness between the US population and has been branded a “liberal fallacy” by the right, many would expect Obama to stay the hell (yes, another reference to heat, don’t judge) away from it. And yet The Guardian’s story suggests otherwise, a move that, if indeed comes to pass, will surely awaken the ire of many conservatives across the land who insist that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by 99.9% of the world’s climate scientists.
So it’s now only a matter of time to see if Obama really delivers and engages in some chest-beating before his political opponents at the risk of losing some political points.
Obviously we shouldn’t downplay some of Obama’s achievements in these last four years, which include getting his country out of a horrible recession, saving the auto industry, ending the war in Iraq, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, banning torture, and passing the credit card, immigration, student loans and health care reform bills.
But to the progressive front, Obama still disappoints.
He didn’t close Guantanamo, the Drug War is a continuation of the crusade started by Bush Jr. (and only expanded the tentacles of the prison-industrial complex) and the use and abuse of drones is wreaking havoc in the Middle East.
But considering his recent imperceptible pivoting, there’s still hope that an Obama 2.0 is a return to form of that politician that managed to inspire an entire generation of bleary-eyed cynics.