Amid the two million people crowded on the National Mall to watch President Barack Obama’s inaugural address, I promise that there was at least one Republican there.
I’ll spare you the melodramatics and I won’t launch into some somber soliloquy of reflection and history. It truly was an incredible moment for me, though not because Obama is the first African-American president.
Rather, it was an incredible moment to watch a Republican-appointed Supreme Court justice swear in to office a Democratic president. It was an incredible moment to hear a right-wing evangelical deliver a prayer to a crowd of assembled liberals who quietly mouthed the Lord’s Prayer along with him. It was an incredible moment to watch Barack Obama condemn the leadership of the past eight years while George Bush sat proudly and silently behind him – an honorable act that I am sure no one will ever give him credit for.
Still, I believe that at least for the moment, Barack Obama truly does understand the gravity of the crisis we are in, and he did say some interesting things targeted directly to conservatives.
The question is “not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works . where the answer is no, programs will end,” he said, indicating he understands that the era of government for government’s sake is over. We can no longer afford to waste money in the midst of the biggest financial crisis in decades.
“The market’s power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched,” Obama admitted, a subtle and appreciated reassurance to those who think he could steer America toward a socialist direction.
“We will not apologize for our way of life … our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you,” he said of the war on terror. “To those leaders around the globe who seek to blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”
Of course, it is yet to be seen whether these words were fake or real representations of his opinions. But as a Republican who disagrees with him on mostly everything, I did feel that Obama was finally trying to reach out to me too. Obama understands that to get through the next four years, we will need bipartisanship and serious work.
But the one negative thought I had as I walked away from the Mall – do his followers understand too?
“The time has come to set aside childish things,” Obama declared in his inaugural address as the crowd cheered in agreement. Yet whenever former President Bush’s face appeared on the television monitors, the same people disrespectfully booed and hissed. Unity?
As the inaugural parade strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue, you could hear the tearful screams of adoring fans reaching their hands out, like – not to bring up old grudges – he was Paris Hilton.
“Obama!” one girl screamed. “He looks like a god!” another woman shouted. But earlier, as Obama detailed important economic views that I was intently listening too, the crowd seemed to drift away, checking cell phones or gazing off.
The election is over. Obama the celebrity must now become Obama the statesman. When the glamour fades, will his supporters accept that?
The writer, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist and a member of the College Republicans executive board.