There is a reason the psalmist warned, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” (Psalm 146:3)
It wasn’t that he was cynical about humanity. It appears the writer observed that the best efforts of humankind were unable to produce the satisfaction people sought in earthly leaders.
Which brings us to the expectations surrounding Barack Obama.
It is a truism in politics that you are supposed to lower expectations in order to boost your political stock should you exceed them. Sen. Obama has done precisely the opposite. He has raised expectations so high there is only one way he can exceed them following his nomination in Denver. That is to climb to the top of a mountain peak, there to be transfigured and ascend into Heaven. No wonder Jon Stewart lampooned his messianic personae on “The Daily Show,” saying that while in Israel, Obama made a short visit to the manger in Bethlehem where he was born.
In his Berlin speech, Obama promised to tear down more walls than Joshua did at Jericho. He’s going to destroy walls separating black from white; walls between Jews, Muslims and Christians; walls dividing rich from poor, and East from West. Prior to the advent of Obama, such powers were reserved for the Messiah, who, we are promised, will beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, make the lion lie down with the lamb and we will study war no more.
No politician can live up to such great expectations. That is because neither the problems, nor the solutions emanate from Washington. Politicians in one party want us to believe that politicians in the other party caused our problems. Each party has had its turn in the White House and a congressional majority. If one party is better than the other, shouldn’t one of them have solved the problems by now?
With expectations so high, if Obama is elected president and his party maintains, perhaps expands, its margins in the House and Senate, he will have to immediately solve at least some of the problems he has promised to solve, lest his opinion polls take a dive and cynicism makes a comeback.
Obama is to be commended for lecturing black men about their role as real fathers, not just sperm donors. But he is not the first to give that lecture. Rev. Jesse Jackson and comedian Bill Cosby have also given it. Yet, the targeted behavior has not changed. America’s primary problems are not economic and political; they are moral and spiritual and there government cannot go, with or without “faith-based initiatives.”
In our self-obsessed, entitlement age, politicians send the message that if you’re breathing you should expect a government check. Few want to hear a message about personal responsibility and accountability. The Obama disciples want to hear more about what government will do for them, not what they can do for themselves in a free country that offers opportunity to those who will seize it. They want to punish “the rich,” who they used to want to emulate, but now just envy. And so those few who are already paying more than half the taxes are told they aren’t paying enough.
John McCain might mimic Ronald Reagan by saying that America is struggling, not because government is doing too little, but because it is doing too much; sapping the strength of the country, which is not found in Washington, but rather in “we the people.” If McCain can lower expectations from Washington and raise them in individuals, showing them what tenacity and hard work can produce, he might win.
Should we expect such a message from him? We should, but will he deliver it? My own expectations aren’t very high, which means he might exceed them.