Sunday, May 31, 2015

When hope needs to change


Shepard Fairey's comment that the president hasn't lived up to expectations is no surprise to anyone who saw him say on The Colbert Report in 2010, "You know, I'm proud of it as a piece of grassroots activism, but I'll just leave it at that." His comment drew a muted response from the crowd.

When Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008, many of his critics mocked the themes of "hope" and "change" as utopian concepts. Some supporters saw such themes as a practical departure from years of aggressive neoconservative policies. Still others supported Obama while ascribing the same utopian notions to him that his critics did. It wasn't hard to see even before Obama took the oath of office that the third group would turn on him pretty quickly. 

And that's because too many people, regardless of political bent, reject a very basic notion: That the president will never govern in a vacuum. Also: They are not you.

President Elizabeth Warren would have to compromise. She would inevitably fail to live up to some of her promises. She would not be able to control everything, because the U.S. has three branches of government with checks and balances. Even during her campaign, she would alienate her base at times as a function of trying to appeal to a nation of 318.9 million people. Same for President Rand Paul. Or President Rick Santorum. Or President Anyone Else. 

So it's a given that a president is going to fall short of lofty expectations. The question shouldn't be, "Does this president live up to their ideal?" The question should be, "Are my expectations reasonable?" Also: "Are the good things the president is doing exceeding the bad?"

It's not about lowering standards; it's about being realistic, even in excitement. It's not all-or-nothing. It never is. Anyone who insists so is setting themselves up for massive disappointment forever.

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