Barack Obama and the question of delivering


by John Clay • Leading up to the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama, I have heard a lot of people asking aloud whether Obama will be able to deliver all that everyone expects of him. They usually start the question with “I just wonder if…” or “We’ll see whether…”—as though they are pondering a weighty question about matters beyond our reach, whose outcome will mean salvation or perdition for us all. What a grandiose, dreamy question!

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Dreamy, first of all, because these people seem to be asking not just for delivery on a promise but for deliverance—as, for example, from evil. Now, most of us, if we are going to ask for deliverance, will ask it from God (if we are believers) and not from government officials.

And dreamy, second of all, because if these people really are asking only for delivery, then this is an oddly passive relation to take toward government. It’s okay to call for pizza delivery. But to ask someone—one person, even the president—to deliver economic recovery and prosperity to our door seems, I have to say, just plain lazy.

No one person can turn this economy and this nation around alone. It will take the efforts of progressive elected officials at every level of government: local, state, and federal. And just as candidates learned throughout the course of their campaigns what the American people really want—balance, economic security, stronger communities, stewardship of the environment, and sane foreign policy—so too our elected officials (knowing there is always another election to come) can continue to learn from our letters and phonecalls to them and from the political environment we create: through the progressive ideas we voice in our communities and through our daily choices to buy local, buy fair trade, and buy organic.

It will take all of us to turn the economy around and set the nation back on course to a better future. Don’t fixate on “the man at the top”. America’s president is not a monarch and not a god. And governing is the business of every one of us. Let your elected officials know that you want a progressive America. And every day live a progressive life that supports the ideals you care about.

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