For the second time, the American people celebrated Barack Obama’s inauguration as US President in a scene that continues to capture the people’s imagination owing to its great symbolism and significance. Obama still represents the American dream in its broad context, overcoming seemingly enormous challenges and hardships.
Here the son of a Kenyan Muslim migrant has been re-elected as president of the greatest country on earth. On this occasion his inauguration coincided with Martin Luther King Da—a federal holiday to celebrate the birth of the leader of the African-American civil rights movement, immortalized in an enormous statue erected in the US capital. In fact, President Obama stood in front of this statue when he delivered his second historic inauguration speech.
However, today Barack Obama is president in a world that is vastly different than it was four years ago. The EU is suffering from a massive recession that has created a grave economic crisis, impacting upon the entire global economy in an unprecedented manner. This has prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to announce that if he is re-elected he will directly address the UK public and hold a nationwide referendum to decide whether or not Britain should remain within the EU. This step will have an enormous impact on the very idea of a union in Europe (the UK has always been cautious about the EU, having previously declined to join the Schengen visa information system and the single European currency).
Furthermore, Russia now seems more aggressive and powerful, and is attempting to restore the influence and strength it lost as a result of the fall of the Soviet Union. It has a clear “appetite” for hot-spots such as Syria, Iran, and Georgia. In this endeavor, Russia is cashing in heavily on increasing its revenues because of the rising prices of oil, thus enabling the country to invest heavily in the military and space industries, alongside other vital sectors.
China has also recently worked up an appetite for a greater regional presence, as can be seen in its island disputes with Japan and the Philippines. This has put the US on a high state of alert as it considers these two states to be extremely important allies in the Pacific region.
Barack Obama is entering his second term in office amid an internal economic crisis, as a result of George W. Bush’s destructive policies, which the US is yet to recover from and continuing to pay a high price for. Hence Obama is now strongly inclined to place greater emphasis on the domestic situation at the expense of foreign affairs. Today he is seeking to lay down new guidelines for the possession of arms, draw up new policies for abortion rights, guarantee civil marriages for gays and improve the rights of illegal immigrants. These are all traditionally thorny issues that demonstrate Obama’s compass clearly points to the new US population, who are mostly minorities, and who will be playing a major role in the country’s future. Here, Obama is gambling on his party’s future, unlike the Republican Party that is still a prisoner of past policies, resulting in its humiliating losses in recent elections.
Obama may also be paving the way for his wife Michelle to access politics via the Democratic Party, in view of her apparent charismatic character. At the very least, he may be facilitating the departure of Hilary Clinton in order to return the favor to her husband, who is considered by many as the major cause for rescuing Obama’s electoral campaign and restoring the electorate’s trust in him.
However, all this will come at the expense of the Arab Spring in general, and the Syrian revolution in particular, both of which do not seem to be part of Obama’s priorities. This also applies to the issue of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. In Israel, the recent election results show that the electorate will probably choose an even more radical government that will not relinquish land and will seek to increase settlement construction.
Obama’s upcoming term will focus on domestic American issues first and foremost. As for others, they must take care of their own affairs. That seems to be the message.