The 2008 election just ended. So why are we already assessing Obama? Avlon is the author of Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America.
It’s official: The USA has ADD.
One week after an historic, 22-month election—with a new cabinet not yet named and the first African-American president still 68 days from inauguration—we’re on to the next election, with news segments breathlessly speculating on the future of the GOP: not its philosophic crossroads or demographic dead-end, but the likely cast of characters.
The Republican Governors’ Association meeting in Miami is being covered like a reality show. Is Sarah Palin morphing from Spiro Agnew to the new Nixon before our eyes? Will Romney’s operatives knee-cap her on the way to nomination? South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Florida’s Charlie Crist are angling to get into the action. Mike Huckabee is getting his screen test done with a weekly show on Fox, while Bobby Jindal has become the GOP’s great Indian hope—one of their few examples of diversity in elected office.
Since November, we’ve fast-forwarded from instant nostalgia to instant projection.
When politics becomes entertainment, we get addicted to the gossip. The prospect of governing seems difficult and deliberative, definitively un-sexy. We’ve fast-forwarded from instant nostalgia to instant projection.
Obama fans have gotten into the act as well, with 28 percent of Americans saying he will be a “great” president while 34 percent say he will be merely “good”—all before any actual data has come in. Consequential is not the same thing as successful.
It’s great that this election has inspired the American people to get excited about politics again—it’s a welcome corrective when nearly 90 percent of Americans believe our country is moving in the wrong direction. A pop-culture president—one who is actually popular and reflects our contemporary culture—is welcome as well.
But the whole point of the horserace is to get to this moment—a new administration that can actually make changes, correcting the mistakes and excesses of the current one. Now is the time to focus on those changes as real challenges multiply every day. Now is still a time to savor the history that we have all made together. And if we prove too distracted to appreciate this moment, or too desirous of “what’s next” to focus on the real history that’s in front of us, we’re in trouble because we will have forgotten the difference between spin and substance.
So news producers everywhere, please take your Ritalin or Adderall if necessary. Otherwise it’s going to be a painfully long and unproductive 1,528 days until the next election. And we’ll run the risk that we distract ourselves to death on the road to 2012, emerging stupider rather than stronger as a result of all that we’ve experienced.
John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics.