Amid the flurry of anger and frustration that has led to festering division since president-elect Donald Trump won on Nov. 8, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting and thinking back to President Barack Obama’s historic 2008 victory. The nation then — much like it is now — was deeply divided.
War-weary and searching for change, Americans selected someone who they believed encapsulated the hope the country so desperately sought. And while millions embraced and applauded Obama’s win, scores of conservative Americans found themselves in despair, fretting over what would soon unfold.
Flash-forward eight years and, once again, millions of Americans are saddened, angry and fearful about what the future holds under President Trump, though others — some of the same people who worried about the then-impending Obama administration — are now cautiously optimistic about what the next four years will hold.
Respect — much like it was in some circles back in 2008 — has been missing from a lot of the dialogue surrounding the 2016 election, as Americans are bitterly divided about how to move forward. Protests are planned for the inauguration, people are calling for the dismantling of the Electoral College and many refuse to accept Trump as “their president.”
As I pondered the gaping divide, I re-discovered a piece I wrote in January 2009, immediately following Obama’s inauguration — an op-ed titled, “A Proclamation To American Conservatives” that encapsulated my views at the time. I honestly couldn’t remember what I was feeling or thinking in my mid 20s when Obama took the reins of power.
But re-reading the piece eight years later reminded me of how I felt, leaving me thinking more deeply about where we are as a culture now and how we can all extend a bit of grace toward one another, regardless of where we stand politically. While much of my perspective and some of my worldview has changed since writing these words, I think it’s worth revisiting.
Here it is:
January 2009: History was made this week when Barack Obama was inaugurated to serve as the nation’s first African American president. Obama’s historic electoral victory showcases the nation’s move beyond the stigmatization and segregation that existed just sixty years ago. It is a time of reflection not only for a country that has made significant sociopolitical progression, but also for a subset of the nation that has suffered two consecutive electoral losses – the American conservative.
It can be said without a doubt that many conservatives are still disheartened by the results of the 2008 election. But, as President Obama settles into the White House and begins to govern, our disillusionment cannot overtake us. In 2000 and 2004, we felt a high level of political efficacy as our candidate elevated to serve in the nation’s highest office. Today, this same efficacy is being experienced by American liberals, as Obama embodies the values and virtues that constituency embraces. Though these values often conflict with the ideals we hold dear, we are all Americans and no matter how disappointed we are, we must endure.
It would clearly be a blind disservice to history and to this great nation to ignore the historical connotation of Obama’s victory. Ignorance to the historical relevancy of this time is, indeed, (and rightfully) hard to find. Most conservatives are, despite the sting that has come with suffering major defeat in recent elections, prepared to give President Obama the respect that American liberals ardently refused to give to President George W. Bush.
Surely we feel disheartened and anxious as we await the policy maneuvers and advances that are slated to violate our personal values and conservative character, but we cannot allow a difference of ideals to distract us from reformation. Instead of focusing our energies on how horrific we think Obama to be, we must work strenuously to showcase the relevancy of our policies and the potential results of our legislative potentialities.
In the end, the American conservative, though contemporaneously subjugated at the polls and in the realm of ideological policy influence, has the advantage. It is our values that work to hold the fabrics of society together; it is our conscience that collectively seeks to bolster America’s most treasured ingenuity. Though we are underrepresented in the near-term, we are not forgotten.
As liberals celebrate their recent victory, we should be thankful for an opportunity to break free from the corruption and distractions that have permeated our party over the past decade. Now is the time to look beyond what has already passed and to focus on refining policy points, bringing the party together and harvesting the young leaders who will, in turn, assist America in sustaining and advancing her global position.
While American liberals have showcased their extreme excitement and awe over Obama’s win, the most inspirational result – aside from the social barriers that our new president has broken, of course — has been the character, spirit and resilience of American conservatives. As we struggle to understand the devastating losses we suffered in the Congressional midterm of 2006 and in the subsequent presidential race of 2008, we remain hopeful and confident that our nation – and political presence — will rebound.
Many of us, including former Republican vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, have wished Obama well. When asked by Glenn Beck this week if she considered Barack Obama her president, Palin replied, “Absolutely. Yes, he is. We are all Americans and united we stand.” As can be easily recalled, the left’s often harsh attacks against President Bush have never been particularly fortuitous. As per the New York Times:
In January 2001, when the country was divided over a disputed presidential election, the newest development was security checkpoints along the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue, from the Capitol to the White House, to minimize the ability of protesters to disrupt the procession. None did, although several people threw eggs and debris at Mr. Bush’s limousine as it left the Capitol grounds.
As conservatives, there is no greater or more patriotic service we can do for our nation than to wish our new president well as he forges ahead into a mountainous terrain. Make no mistake: This is not to say that we should advocate ignorance when processing or addressing Obama’s often radical ideals; rather, as conservative Americans, we should come together to address the issues that are hampering our nation’s progress using clear and rational means. After all, it is in our best interest for Obama to reach some level of success while in office.
Instead of attacking Obama’s presidential vehicle with eggs and tomatoes, let’s prepare our arguments logically and present them with zest; let’s ensure that we support our president to the highest degree possible, while working to ensure our voices are heard. The stage has already been set, but the play is yet to be written.
The jeers that President Bush received this week when he walked onto the inaugural stage served as a confirmation and a distinct reminder of the following ideals: The American conservative must patriotically reject concentrating our efforts on pointless acts of vilification. We must rise to the occasion. We must reject the “not my president” mantra that so many liberals have held dear these past eight years. And finally — we must restructure our party, while making our voices heard loud and clear to the executive and legislative branches.
Surely, we disagree with Obama’s policy assessments, but we can fight these progressions the fair and rational way: By rebuilding and mobilizing our base, and attempting to bring in leaders who seek true change in future electoral cycles. Whether we wanted him or not, Barack Obama is our president. Now, let’s get to work.
Other Must-Read Stories: