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By Steve Kelman

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After the inauguration, some forecasts for the next four years

crowd at inauguaration 2013

Crowds filled the National Mall during Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony on January 21. (FCW photo by Michael Hardy)

While in town for this week’s presidential inauguration, I took the opportunity to ask friends I met (all Democrats) a question about the next four years. The question was this:  “What’s the optimistic scenario for the next four years that you think has at least a 25 percent chance of happening? And what’s the pessimistic scenario that has at least a 25 percent chance of happening?”

Though not all responses were the same, there were interesting patterns. Basically, the optimistic scenarios involved the economy and the pessimistic ones involved the international scene. One person, for example, felt there was a 25 percent chance that four years from now the Democrats would be able to point to a “Morning in America” moment such as that used by Ronald Reagan in the 1984 presidential campaign – that most of the nation would feel confident that the economy had really come back strongly from the economic crisis.

The worries were international. They worried that Afghanistan and/or Pakistan might collapse in a way that creates real problems for the United States; that terrorism might resurge; that Europe’s economy could collapse; or that there might be trouble in the Middle East such as escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestine or a revolution in Saudi Arabia).

Interestingly, nobody I asked mentioned improvements in the ability to compromise politically; nor did anyone predict progress or calamity regarding the country’s fiscal problems. I asked about whether an optimistic economic scenario would have any impact on political dysfunction, and the best response I got was one suggestion that economic growth would reduce the urgency of the budget deficit problem.

By the way, a Chinese friend sent me a screen shot of a page on Youku – China’s home-grown equivalent to YouTube – of scenes from the Obama inauguration. One picture showed the President and Michelle Obama dancing, another the inaugural address. Still others showed Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keyes, and Kelly Clarkson singing. To be sure, these pics were hardly burning up the Chinese Internet. Twelve hours after being posted, they had only been watched 8,000 times. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting sign of the attractiveness of American society and culture in China, and elsewhere outside the United States. (I blogged a few months ago about Chinese kids wearing t-shirts with US flags or military insignia.)

 

Posted on Jan 22, 2013 at 12:09 PM


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Reader comments

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 Steve Kelman

Mike Palumbo, thanks very much for your suggestion about a question to ask in China. Actually, will be meeting with a group of Chinese students on Friday and will ask them the question!

Wed, Jan 23, 2013 Mike Palumbo Washington, DC

Excellent questions Steve and the answers are equally so - now on your next trip to China I'd love to see you ask the same questions to the Chinese people that you come in contact with! It would be interesting to compare! It amazes me (I must admit that I just finished watching the new Frontline investigative piece regarding the mortgage bubble collaspe) that we don't really fear another economic meltdown...perhaps the fact that we are NOT overheated is a GOOD thing?

Tue, Jan 22, 2013

Since nothing has really changed, I predict all the things that you both loved and loathed about the last four years will continue for another four.

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