I think I depressed myself with my predictions for Obama's future and the future of the nation. So I want to use this space to present a more optimistic vision - a realistic optimistic vision, mind you.
Obama pulls the military out of Iraq before a year's time expires... and into Iran, which swiftly becomes a replay of Iraq. Obama compromises virtually everything the Left stands for in the stimulus package, including steps to repair the environment but not in the way Democrats would like. Obama does nothing to repair the damage done to the Constitution by the Bush Administration.
America slowly but surely pulls out of its economic funk, but very little actual "change" happens, even from the policies of the last eight years. Democrats gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate in 2010 but lose some seats in the House. Many in the "netroots" decide to form their own nascent political movement for 2012, which attracts attention from both parties. The Republicans start to attract new attention as well, creating a climactic three-way showdown for the Presidency.
Who comes out on top... is anyone's guess.
Wait. That's still too depressing no matter what happens. Even if the new political movement wins, it will have less real experience in all its leaders combined than Obama alone, and it'll have fallen behind in the past four years. Let's try that again.
Obama enters office aware as few are of the many critical problems facing America and just how much we stand at a critical moment in American history.
Obama swiftly pulls the military out of Iraq before a year's time expires, and the country becomes relatively stable, though hardly the stablest in the region. Recognizing the immense magnitude of the problem of the environment, Obama loads over half the stimulus package with programs intended to help correct American greenhouse gas emissions, with the goal of lowering those emissions as much as humanly possible by the end of his first term. The rest of the package, including new education programs, is essentially Obama's own version of the New Deal.
By 2010, America is already - slowly but surely - pulling out of its economic funk. Republicans claim it was never going to be as bad as a second Great Depression unless Obama screwed it up, but that falls on deaf ears. Many are disappointed at how little actual "change" has occured so far, as Obama has been preoccupied by the economic meltdown and tension in various foreign nations, not to mention growing into the job of President, as well as balancing economic stimulus with not becoming a vassal of China. Nonetheless the Democrats once again increase their lead in both houses of Congress.
By 2012, Obama has probably been a B president, maybe slightly worse than Clinton, which isn't really a knock on Obama. The main knock on his record is that foreign leaders seem to respect Obama the person more than America the country, but the anti-America rallies have greatly subsided, and things have mostly returned to a Clinton-era status quo, as though the years 2001-2008 never happened, although America is still aggressively pursuing terrorists, this time with greater cooperation with foreign governments and greater success. After taking greater control of Congress in 2010, Obama starts to make far greater headway on his various proposals, previously stonewalled by Republicans. With America peaceful and prosperous, and much of the damage done to the Constitution and the environment either repaired or in the process of being repaired, Obama and the Democrats win a resounding victory and the Republicans fall into disarray.
By 2014, the Republicans are no longer in the top two largest third parties in America.
How much did you like that assessment? How much did you like it compared to the other two?
Here's the important part: From the present vantage point, all three of those predictions could be equally likely to happen.
Obama could be so grossly incompetent as to fracture the country, lead to the rise of a modern Hitler, and combined with the ravages to the environment, end modern civilization as we know it. He could turn out to be a Trojan horse, Bush 2.0, who forces the Left to break with the Democrats to get their agenda moving. He could turn out to be a modern FDR who effectively kills the Republican party by contrasting his Presidency with George W. Bush's.
Any or all of those things may happen.
Republicans would probably prefer the second of these scenarios happened, maybe the first in some radical sectors (quasi-fascist areas, religious righters who think the first scenario would trigger the Second Coming). Democrats would probably prefer the third. We don't know enough about Obama to know which direction things would take if left to their own devices.
But the rest of you would not like it to be the first scenario.
Politics, much as we hate to admit it, matters. It matters in our own daily lives and those of countless others. If we don't pay attention to politics and what's happening in our world, we can be blindsided by the consequences - and we won't even know why they're happening.
But if it turns out to be the first scenario, what can be done to stop it?
The power lies with you.
You have the power to vote for the people you agree with, the people who will best represent your own interests and those of the country.
You have the power to keep yourself informed and see what's coming before it happens.
You have the power to educate yourself and make sure you're confident in the direction you think the country should take.
You have the power not to stand for it if things start to go to hell in a handbasket. Stage protests, circulate petitions, gin up opposition, do whatever you need to to stand for what you believe in.
In ten years, America could be fighting in Armageddon... or it could be in the middle of one of its biggest Golden Ages.
Your vote matters. What happens over the next 4-8 years matters.
And some fairly small differences could determine which path America takes.
The ball, right now, is in Barack Obama's court. But however he serves it back, it's far more important to determine what happens after that.
The ultimate power lies with you.