I did not attend the inauguration this year, the first one I’ve missed since 1996. But much like a football game, I find you see a lot more watching it on TV. It’s funny to see politicians on the Capitol steps, schmoozing and pretending to like each other.
And, really, how can you top 2009, seeing the first African American president sworn in? The city truly had an electricity and unity that I’ve rarely seen in this country in my lifetime.
The message from the young president and his family wowing the millions was “hope and change.” That was then.
Four years later, the president and his family still bring a Kennedy-esque star power, surrounded by celebrities and the adoring crowds.
But now, four years later, there is a weariness, and so much for hope and change. Obama’s inaugural address was less prose and more politics. Hope and change? He sounded like he was digging in for four more years of confrontation with Congress.
Is it possible that there is nobody in Washington who will take the leadership role? I remember as a teenager arguing that Ronald Reagan was going to start World War III. Of course, it turned out he made peace with the Soviet Union. But more importantly, the great communicator opened a dialogue with his opposition in Congress. Reagan famously “went for a walk” with the Democratic speaker Tip O’Neill, and the two would find a way to compromise.
Compromise, what a concept.
The Capitol is a very different place. The speaker these days will sometimes not even take the call from the president. We almost went off a fiscal cliff, and a debt-ceiling standoff will only be avoided because it appears the Republicans feel they have nothing to gain.
So where do we go from here? That’s what leadership is all about. We don’t need four more years of gridlock and finger-pointing. And somebody has to take the initiative. It won’t be the Speaker of the House. He cannot control the hard right of his party.
But the president controls the nation’s agenda. And right now, he understands that it’s more divided than ever. So what’s to be done? Is it four more years of the same? Or perhaps, time for “hope and change.” Don’t hold your breath.