Obama Loses His Luster. Why That’s A Good Thing.

Summer                                               Waxing Grandchildren Moon

The Colorado Teacher’s union says Obama has lost his luster.  Jen, union rep for her school, said so last night over sushi.  That would be a good generalization for the country as a whole.  Obama has lost his luster.  Let me tell you why that’s a good thing.

Part of Obama’s luster was his election as our first president of color.  Though his election represented a break through, it represented a break through not for Barack Obama but for the United States itself.  In the end Obama happened to be a person of presidential ambitions who was of color.  The quest for power has never known a color barrier, just access to power in certain places and certain eras.  The Mongols wanted power in China, so they conquered China and created the Yuan dynasty.  Likewise, the Manchus, an artificial amalgam of northerners, wanted in power in China, conquered the Ming dynasty and created their own, Qing dynasty.  Patrice Lumumba.  Ida Amin.  Kwame Nkrumah.  Nelson Mandela.  Felipe Calderon.  Pol Pot.

Part of Obama’s luster came from the dismal, even embarrassing governance of his predecessor, G.W. Bush, just your good ole boy in the oval office.  Obama would bring in the non-Dick Cheney’s, the anti-Rumsfelds.  This again has nothing to do with Obama himself, rather it relates to the person he replaced.  Again, from this perspective, anyone would do.

Part of Obama’s luster came from his victory in a long and hard fought primary battle, a battle that included the first viable female candidate for the Presidency, Hillary Clinton, and that stretched on well into the year of the Presidential election itself.  Though this begins to get to his character, he can tough it out over the long haul, confronting risks head-on, it is still nothing unusual.  Presidential candidates have to first win the confidence of their own party before they can have a shot at convincing the whole country.

Part of his luster, too, comes from a glamorous wife and two beautiful daughters.  This, too, begins to speak to his character, but we expect our Presidents to have families, so it’s not unusual in any particular way.

Luster fades, the Oscar becomes burnished as does the Olympic medal.  The carefully orchestrated rise of celebrity lasts for only moments in most peoples lives.  The rush of romance must give way to a longer, more sturdy and hardy love.  The lilies in my garden send up their three-foot stalks, dazzle me with their colors and fragrance, then quickly the flowers disappear.  But.  The lily remains.  It takes in food, stores it in the bulb, throws off more plants through expansion of the bulb, bulbils that grow on the stalk and even occasionally from seed.

This is why Obama’s loss of luster is a good thing.  Now he has a chance to send down stores of wisdom and experience gained in office to his staffers, his cabinet, his party.  Now he can begin to govern as Barack Obama, the man who would govern as a center-left president, not as Barack Obama, conqueror of Hillary, nor as the first black man to be President, not as the anti-Bush and not with the reflected glamor of wife and daughters.  Is he in a more difficult situation now?  Yes.  He has spent political capital at an exorbitant rate to pass the health care reform legislation, to get more bail out money, to push home some re-regulation of the financial services industry and in an attempt to pass energy legislation.

His party faces a difficult election round  thanks to the fractious politics of all the things mentioned here and the unsteady economy and the legacy wars, especially the one in Afghanistan he has made his own.  And yet.  This is the time the man can break out from behind the self-preening of those of us who elected him in part as a black man.  This is the time the man can break out from comparisons to G.W. Bush, flattering or otherwise, and create the reality of his governance style.  This, more than any other, is Barack Obama’s time.  I for one wish him well.

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