In 8 years, quite a bit can happen.
Eight years ago, then-state Sen. Barack Obama, fresh off a smashing keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, scheduled a stop in Dixon during a 3-day campaign swing through downstate Illinois.
There he was, on Aug. 2, 2004, soon to turn 43 years old, a Chicago Democrat on the brink of a U.S. Senate victory, and 4 years before he would complete his meteoric rise to become the first African-American president.
The crowd along Dixon’s First Street was enthusiastic and eager to get a close-up look at Obama. The candidate obliged, wading into the audience to greet well-wishers after his stump speech.
Fast forward 8 years, and Obama stands at the threshold of history again. Having won re-election Tuesday to a second term, the president possesses a mandate to proceed with his government-centered plans to fix what ails the U.S.
If history is any indication, Obama and fellow Democrats may have to do much of the heavy lifting themselves. While the president campaigned for his first term on a theme of hope and change, he failed to win many Republicans to the cause.
Now, after what some are calling the first billion-dollar election campaign in U.S. history, filled with charges, counter-charges and distortions of every kind, it could be even harder for national politicians to engage in bipartisan solutions.
After an interminable presidential campaign marathon, however, that is exactly what is needed.
The so-called “fiscal cliff” looms dangerously ahead. A combination of stiff tax increases and large spending cuts will kick in automatically at year’s end, unless Congress and the White House can agree to a different solution.
Without a compromise, the American economy will tumble over that fiscal cliff. No one knows the ultimate effect on the struggling economy, but it won’t be good.
Then, after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, the nation faces 4 more years of Obama in the White House, with many hoping that the experience little resembles the past 4 years of partisan wrangling and discord.
There has been plenty to argue about. Budget deficits. National debt. The uncertain economy. The war in Afghanistan. Terrorist threats at home and abroad. The gnawing realization that the American dream is slipping away from the nation’s middle class.
Obama can point to his accomplishments during his first term: health care overhaul, economic stimulus package, end of the Iraq war, allowing gays to openly serve in the military, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the government bailout of two Detroit-based automakers.
The campaign, thankfully, is over, but the status quo remains: The White House and Senate stay in Democratic hands, the House in Republican hands.
Can the arguing among national leaders come to an end?
Republican candidate, former Gov. Mitt Romney, and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, put forth some positive proposals. Just because the ideas came from Republicans should not mean that the Obama administration dismisses them outright. In any give-and-take situation, after all, both sides have to give.
Barack Obama’s presidency will now extend a full 8 years.
Democrats, Republicans and the president must learn from the mistakes of the past 4 years, do a better job the next 4 years, and work together to restore America.
After all, quite a bit can happen in 8 years.