U.S. President Barack Obama already made history in 2008 when he became the first African-American president. But Obama has greater aspirations. He'd like to go down in history for the content of his deeds, not the color of his skin. To this end, he will face many challenges over the next four years. It will be interesting to see what kind of America he leaves behind in 2016. Let's wish for an America that is less divided than the one Obama left himself following his first term in 2012.
"Good job, daddy," the president's younger daughter Sasha said following Sunday's swearing-in ceremony. "I did it," he replied happily. It was a beautiful scene, no less so than the gorgeous view from the room where the ceremony took place. Let's hope for America's sake that the same dialogue repeats itself four years from now, when Obama takes leave of the White House. A strong and stable America is critical to the well-being of the free world — now more than ever.
America is a lot less excited about today's inauguration than it was four years ago. In some ways this is an unfair comparison because we are talking about an incumbent president, but the decline in enthusiasm also has to do with Americans having had their eyes opened. Obama is still well-liked. He has a 52 percent approval rating, but he is definitely seen as a president of flesh and blood. America's messiah, like ours, has yet to arrive.
America has changed. The most recent election campaign has proven just how much. Demographics were the most decisive factor in these past elections. Obama is aware of the fact and that's why he's likely to push forward pro-immigration legislation. Millions of illegal immigrants will get their papers by the end of his term. The payoff to the Democratic Party is apparent, as witnessed in these past elections.
But Republicans can be expected to take a pro-immigrant position as well. They too are aware that America has changed. In a democracy, one gains power by earning more votes. Republicans must court the Hispanic vote as well. Thus, Obama will receive unprecedented support on this issue, support that stems from electoral considerations rather than ideological ones.
But this is the only issue on which the parties will agree. Polarization between the two parties is possibly the worst since the Civil War 150 years ago. Obama ended the war in Iraq, laid the ground for withdrawal from Afghanistan and passed his healthcare reform, but in the process he also polarized the country.
Dividing the nation comes at a cost, especially when the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives. Obama wants to lower the deficit, reduce arms sales and bring down unemployment. But it's not going to happen. In actuality, Obama has two years, not four, to accomplish these goals. Should the Republicans win big during mid-term elections, they will turn him into a lame duck by 2014.
At that point, he will have no choice but to turn to international issues, of which there is no shortage. For this reason, Obama will likely exploit the existing divisions among the Republicans to ensure that the Democrats regain the House of Representatives. If he does it again, we will once again have a very political president. And we've almost forgotten the issue of Iran. According to analysts, in the coming term Obama is expected to embitter Netanyahu's life (if and when he is re-elected). Perhaps a little time will remain to also embitter the life of Khamenei.