In what should we place our hopes?
Like many Americans I was surprised by the outcome of November’s elections, and am still processing what happened.
After all, virtually every quantifiable performance measurement revealed that the majority of Americans felt — personally, and as a country — that they were worse off and heading in the wrong direction.
Yet, these same Americans re-elected President Barack Obama, who presided over the country during this period of decline.
Here I am, nearly five months later, finally able to process what happened.
There are two things which are inevitably true with the majority of Americans voting for our president.
The first thing is that even though he holds the most powerful office in the country, and even though his political party held both the House and the Senate during the first two years of his four-year presidency, he was not held accountable for any of the social, economic, and political decline we are seeing.
The blame was constantly placed on the previous administration during his first two years, and then on Republicans for the last two years.
Second, Americans are truly a forgiving and optimistic people. Despite the hardships many were facing, they truly did place their faith and hope in our first African-American president.
I admire this optimism. In this case, however, I have to admit that I believe it is woefully misplaced.
To those who are avid fans of our president, I want you to know that I hear you. I can understand your pride and hope in this charismatic leader.
As I have written before, the most compelling thing about our president is that many identify with him. He is like one of us, albeit a more refined version.
His speeches are eloquent and laced with words that appeal to deeply held values and beliefs like “fairness,” “equality,” and “a balanced-approach.” Consequently, Americans often accept that his policies reflect these things.
However, if we look at the results of his policies, particularly within the African-American community, they have been contrary to his rhetoric.
In fact, within the past four years, African Americans have seen greater economic disparity in terms of unemployment and homes being lost. Perhaps this has also led to even greater moral decline.
I have family members who have lost their life savings; friends have lost their jobs and homes. Those who were fortunate enough to find another job often did so with lower pay.
Still, the immediate response of those who are sympathetic to our president in all of this is that he was not at fault for any of it.
But why is it that preceding presidents have been accountable for what happened on their watch but this president is not — at least not so far?
Whether it is a decrease in high-paying jobs, and jobs in general, or having increases, for example, in healthcare costs, cost of living, government programs like food stamps and disability, the national debt, federal spending, business regulations, and taxes for all (not just the rich), our president does not seem to make decisions based on results and outcomes, but rather on ideology.
Is he hoping that things will change despite years of evidence to the contrary?
Is the president deliberately promoting policies that are financially irresponsible with the intent of pushing more and more Americans into a dependence on government?
I ask these questions because implicit in the president’s rhetoric is the notion that we are an “unfair” country and that those who have less cannot make it without the “help” of government. Why else would there be a need for more “fairness” and “equity”?
This ideology, particularly during difficult economic times, sounds convincing, but it eats at the very heart of our national identity as the land of opportunity.
Unfortunately, in re-electing our president, Americans seem to have placed their hopes in the government to supplement or provide for an easier lifestyle.
This is a far cry from what my parents and grandparents did. They often went without, and worked more than one job to provide for their families and achieve the American dream.
It causes me to wonder if we are losing faith in ourselves to sacrifice, persevere, and rely on our knowledge, abilities, and the sovereignty of God to achieve the American dream and help the most vulnerable within our communities.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]