THAT NIGHT IN Chicago in November 2008 felt historic, and it was. To hear Barack Obama take the stage and say, If there's anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It wasn't only a victory for the Democrats; it was a victory for the American project. Even in Canada, we shared in the feeling of pride and wonder, as history marched past us on our television screens. There he was with his beautiful young family, as glamorous as the Kennedys but more approachable. He was energetic, charismatic and smart. The United States had been through a lot in the George W. Bush years. And even though it was clear by November 2008 that the economy was in serious trouble, everything did seem possible that night.
Four years later, Obama's second victory is more muted. That's as it should be. Despite all the rhetoric about hope and change, no president can fix everything.
The promise of dramatic change is a winning campaign strategy, of course – Mitt Romney campaigned with the phrases a better America and a new tomorrow. The president can't make America new and better. He can't, by himself, solve its serious fiscal problems, reform its taxes and immigration, make it a more fair and just society.
Obama has another tough four years ahead, and no honeymoon this time around. Canada, whose fortunes are so closely tied to those of the United States, will be hoping for sound policies on security, trade and fiscal responsibility.