Talking Cultural Diversity

a discussion board for cultural and diversity issues by Thomas Kochman and Jean Mavrelis

The Political Curse of Raised Expectations

By Thomas Kochman - 06.22.2010

It’s not clear what is a president’s worse nightmare: failure or success.

Standard views of the last Bush administration are that it was a dismal failure. Hillary Clinton in one campaign speech called it “the worst administration in U.S. history”.

Under \”W\”, without hope for a better turn around,  people sucked it up, knowing that the end eventually would come. No coup was necessary. We’ve got rule of law –thank God for that–and another presidential election on the horizon with the hope if not for redemption than at least a chance to get even.

So we search for a savior, someone who can “turn things around.” And we find and elect Barack Obama. Hooray!

But as all presidents and politicians discover, the aura surrounding a savior dissipates quickly.

As Obama himself said at one of his early news conferences, it lasts about a day.

People not only want their collective hurt to be healed, they want it to happen right away.

The problem of course is that it’s easier to manage a political campaign than mobilize a country to support a difficult domestic and foreign agenda against a hostile right wing and divided and resistant Congress.

But is the public realistic and understanding of the time it takes to work the system?

Not really.

Public hope rekindled, translates into raised expectations and impatience. The president is taking too long to decide, on whether we should commit additional troops to Afghanistan, and, in a recent poll, “impatient with Mr. Obama’s response to the oil disaster in the gulf\”.

He needed to have an energy bill ready that would prevent environmental disasters and our dependence on oil, as just as a few weeks earlier, he needed to have an immigration bill ready to challenge Arizona’s new  Draconian state law on immigration.

Managing at the speed of change is not fast enough. Obama also has to anticipate what’s going to happen next and have in place an established program or protocol for solving the problem, knowing that whatever the response is, it’s never going to be enough.

Partial success, as in the passage of the health reform bill, an enormous accomplishment, is still treated as a failure — and this from people who politically support you.

So what is the judgment?

As a political leader I think it would be easier to govern a cynical population than one that is more expectant and hopeful —happy when anything gets done rather than one that demands instant results.

Yet, the audacity of hope is what Obama built his political career and campaign around. It fuels his own optimism and that of his following over what before was thought impossible to achieve.

Having caused us all to dare to hope, President Obama also raised expectations, unfortunately, though, among those who, while high on hope, are still very short on patience.

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