While I remain buoyed by Barack Obama’s win and firmly believe that fundamental changes are afoot in our nation’s core values and governing philosophy, I am realistic about what is possible in the short term, particularly in terms of policy. In The Newshour, Mark Shields was asked what his expectations are of the president-elect and his administration. Shields replied, “I have more hope than expectations.”
The reality is, the next administration and congress face daunting challenges: a fallen economy and broken financial institutions; an alarming and growing number of unemployed citizens; an expensive and patently inefficient health care system; exploding entitlement programs; a failing education system; decaying infrastructure; two wars and counting; cantankerous and dangerous adversaries; the list goes on. And priorities have to be made.
David Leonhardt wrote in his article Obamanomics,
With Obama, there is vast disagreement about just how liberal he is, especially on the economy … Some of the confusion stems from Obama’s own strategy of presenting himself as a postpartisan figure … “My core economic theory is pragmatism,” he said, “figuring out what works.”
Bottom line is, when tackling the economic issue, Obama and his team will adhere to mainstream liberal economic solutions. I expect that answers to other challenges will also fall within the range of acceptable and prescribed remedies.
Where does this leave issues that have not made the top ten list such as LGBT civil rights? Sadly, while we have taken a great leap forward by voting into office our first president of color, we have simultaneously stepped back by denying equal rights to a minority group in California, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas.
While Obama and some legislators might be sympathetic to the plight of LGBT individuals, they are beholden to the electorate that put them into office. As with any other policy initiative, they can only go so far. They need to be attuned to how voters think and feel if they are to succeed in making legislative changes. Again, more of the same. This is how the system works.
And this is why gender minorities need not despair. As Andrew Sullivan points out, the tide of history is behind us, in spite of the passing of Proposition 8 and other anti-LGBT measures. In a May 2008 Gallup Poll, 55% said that homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal. An encouraging 57% feel that homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle. Most of all, hope is with the next generation which holds more progressive and enlightened views. LGBT people and their allies simply need to keep the course, on the ground by changing minds and hearts one at a time and in the halls of power by reminding politicians that we are a constituency as well.
So while I might have low expectations in the short term, I have high hopes for our future. Obama warns us, “the road will be long and the climb will be steep,” but I do see the promised land.