One year ago today, hundreds if not thousands of Yale students joined millions more on the National Mall to watch Barack Obama take the presidential oath of office. He was elected with a mandate for change, and on that blisteringly cold day he proclaimed “an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.” After eight long years with George W. Bush ’68 in the Oval Office, that sounded pretty good.
Obama was a politician who inspired us to volunteer and make phone calls and even vote. He galvanized our generation into action with a call for activism and hope. But, like Obama’s promise of change, these feelings have not survived the long year behind us. Our optimism has reverted back to cynicism as we have seen the same politicking and brokering in Washington under Obama’s leadership that we saw under President Bush and President Clinton. Worse yet, we have placed so much faith in Obama that we seem to have forgotten that one man — even if he is president of the United States — cannot solve all of our problems. We elected Obama together, but then we thought he could work alone. Clearly, he can’t.
After all, our country has a stagnant economy and is fighting two wars in the Middle East. We have a health care system that allows malpractice lawyers to profit while doctors suffer. Our intelligence system simply does not work.
Even a month ago, nobody would have thought that Scott Brown, a low-key Republican from Massachusetts who drives a green GMC pickup truck with about 200,000 miles on it, could be the solution to these immense problems. Indeed, he alone will not be.
But the message Brown sends is one that may change business in Washington more than Obama’s election did last year. What voters in Massachusetts told Congress and Obama yesterday is that they and we are fed up. We’re tired of Nebraska getting special deals and health care reform that does not address some of the most important problems with health care. We’re tired of change that never comes.
As Yale students, it is our nature to think that we can solve the unsolvable and that the best and brightest, the Ivy League graduates, can find solutions that nobody else could. The truth, though, is that solutions can come just as easily from people like Brown and even people who didn’t go to college. The belief we had in Obama was, ironically, a belief in the elite. But maybe it’s time for us to remember that the elite has let us down for a long time now.
We’re not sure what Brown will do as a senator, but it seems he will vote with his conscience instead of with party bosses. This can only be a good thing, and reminds us that there is something from academia that should translate into politics. The search for truth should be more important than the search for political office. Here’s hoping Brown’s win will make our country focus a little more on true change.