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The World Awaits No. 44

it. Other than elected presidents like Kennedy who already had a house in Washington, DC, there’s no precedent for one going to Washington before the inauguration, at least as far ahead as Obama has,” remarks Calvin Mackenzie, a Colby College professor of American government. “Meeting with leaders of Congress and discussing legislation? That’s unusual. Going up on YouTube with a weekly address? None of that is like anything we’ve seen before. This administration is already underway. What we’ll see after the inauguration is simply that the Bush administration is gone and a continuation of the transition.”

Obama is coming into office during a period of great economic crisis for the nation. If there is any lesson to be learned from past presidencies, Davis advises, it’s the importance of consensus building. “Bush 43 lost a lot of his political capital because he governed in too partisan a manner. This country is more polarized as he leaves office than it was when he came in,” Davis says. “Of course you have to cater to your base and have party interests you have to defend, but to be a successful president, you have to be a consensus builder.”
As Obama prepares to formally take office, he continues to reach out to the people who helped him get to this point. Just last week, he traveled to Ohio to meet with factory workers whose economic struggles mirror those of many Americans around the country.

“It’s very easy for a president to lose touch with the public. He went there to send a signal that he understands that many people are hurting and facing an enormous amount of anxiety and uncertainty in this economy and doesn’t intend to lose touch with them,” says Davis. “When was the last time a president-elect made a public appearance before a group of rank-and-file constituents three days before being sworn in? He is in effect saying that despite the grandeur and symbolism of this week, I will be your president.”


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