We have all somehow gotten used to living with Bush.
Remember, at the start of Bush’s tenure, how novel his linguistic incompetence was? How joke books recorded his greatest slips? A president who can’t speak? Hilarious!
Now, this is our normal.
In fact, it’s almost as if we’ve forgotten Presidents are normally articulate, that they should be our best and brightest – and that Obama is articulate and intelligent is something noteworthy, even surprising.
Nor, after a while, were we surprised by Bush’s appalling disregard for the rule of law. As Noble-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman observed, “[Bush’s] contempt for expertise, in turn, rested on contempt for government in general, ” and this contempt – which we saw in the form of wire-tapping, torture, pre-emptive war – all became sort of despicably normal, horribly expected.
And in the same way, living on Bush St., we’ve become perversely accustomed to calamity. Whereas 9/11 was a genuine shock, rocking us to our core, by the end of Bush’s tenure, after two essentially failed wars and the debacle of Hurricane Katrina, we’ve come to expect the worst. In this context, the global economic crash was no surprise, but part of the new, absurd normal.
Of course the economy’s falling apart. What do you expect?
Our expectations are so dire that Huffington Post headlined an article from the Wall Street Journal on a Russian Professor who believes the US will break up in a Civil War in 2010 – and not as a joke, but an earnest news story.
And no doubt, in reaction to the Bush policies, we have lived through a bloodless civil war, by which we have divided ourselves into red and blue states of mind.
Beyond this, as Al Gore argues in The Assault on Reason, we have lived under “The Politics of Fear” on Bush St. This “atmosphere of constant fear,” as Gore describes it, has become our daily experience. Certainly, we have been profoundly shaped by this fear, in ways of which we are probably unaware.
This has been our home for the last eight years. We are used to terror, fear, uncertainty, to a simmering anger that boils over into dinner conversations, into protests, into articles like this. Many of us have built our identities around our opposition to Bush, and some have made careers: What will the Daily Show do? What about angry-lefty bloggers? Bumper sticker companies? Me?
A sign of the times: Every week for the last few years, the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland, CA would post a new anti-Bush message on it’s flashing marquee, next to the new movies. Now, the Grand Lake is just a regular theatre.
What will happen to that long-standing hatred of Bush? Will it simply disappear, like letters off a marquee? Will it be forgotten or repressed? Will it turn into a love of Obama? Or a hate of Obama, for not being far enough away from Bush?
And now that we’re moving off Bush St., this anger, this fear, this raw energy, has been channeled into romantic expectations of Obama – largely because of his campaign promises.
Beneath this tenuous romanticism is a profound fear: many progressives are outraged that Obama’s picks aren’t liberal enough, and certainly, the LGBT community is incensed by the choice of preacher Rick Warren for the inauguration. As the Baltimore Sun recently reported, “Barack Obama won the presidency just last month, and some supporters think he's already forgotten why.”
And yes, Obama may have committed a liberal bait and switch, which only time will tell.