The atmosphere surrounding President Barack Obama’s inauguration is different this weekend than it was four years ago.
For one thing, it’s not quite as cold: Instead of suffering through subfreezing temperatures as they did in 2009, hundreds of thousands of inauguration-goers will enjoy temperatures a cool eight to 10 degrees above freezing at this year’s festivities.
Those who flood the National Mall may also find they have a bit more standing room, as crowd estimates for the second inauguration are not as high as they were the first time around.
But the most important difference to the inaugural attendees who got their election wish for “four more years” may be this: Obama will be able to enjoy them free from the fear of having to face another election.
“It’s completely gone,” said Julie Murray of Las Vegas. “And I hope, because of what we’ve been through and survived, that we will be able to bring Democrats and Republicans together to accomplish things.”
Nevadans celebrating the inauguration in D.C. this weekend may not number as many as, say, the New Yorkers and New Jerseyites, but they are here — clinking glasses at Friday night’s Nevada State Society function in Eastern Market, picking up inauguration tickets from state congressional offices on Capitol Hill and ambling through Logan Circle past the familiarly named Vegas Lounge.
And they are just as opinionated as outspoken East Coasters when it comes to how they’re hoping — even expecting — Obama will govern with a freer hand in his second term.
“I think the word ‘mandate’ is overused, but I think with this second four-year term, I see a new confidence with the president,” said Linda Cavazos, an Obama-supporting Henderson resident who served as a Nevada delegate to the Democratic National Convention. (Most of the Nevadans we spotted in town were Democrats — not surprising, given that this is Obama’s celebration.)
“We’re no longer at ‘our goal is to make him a one-term president.’ We’re done with that,” Cavazos said. “I see a different look on his face. ... I don’t think he looks at it as a mandate. I think he sees this (term) as, this is what you elected me to do.”
For Cavazos, that list begins with an item Obama has already identified: Immigration.
“Something very near and dear to my heart is the Dream Act,” she said. “But I’m hoping it’s even broader than the Dream Act. I want to see them work on the entire issue of immigration. I’m in favor of reform.”
Her husband, Bob, had a different top priority: He wants to see the president push hardest for the workforce investment bills that languished in the previous Congress.
“Back in ’08 and ’09, Republicans were chanting “jobs, jobs, jobs” — and then as soon as they got the majority all we heard about was women’s rights and taking them away,” Bob Cavazos said. “I’m hoping that the Republicans will come around, so instead of being absolute obstructionists stopping anything president Obama wants to do, they will see the light.”
The priorities voiced by the Cavazoses, who are in their 50s, represent the desires many Nevada Democrats expressed during the campaign and the issues that most Democrats elected in the state made front and center in their campaigns.
But the younger generation is looking for Obama to press further on an issue that he hasn’t leaned into too forcefully lately and hoping that the president can cut through controversy to bring about real reforms.
“I’m hoping for comprehensive changes in clean energy, especially coming from Nevada,” said Caty Roske, 22, a Henderson resident attending the inauguration for the first time thanks to tickets her mother won through a lottery conducted by Sen. Harry Reid’s office.
“I anticipate some real stuff on environmental issues,” said her boyfriend, Joe Foley, 24, of Summerlin, also making his first inauguration trip. “Maybe requiring recycling in all the states. Hopefully he can help influence China and India (on emissions). That’s what I’m really hoping for.”
Hopes are high for Obama’s foreign policy not just in terms of energy and carbon emissions but also in defense: Inauguration-goer Farah Divanbeigi, 48, who emigrated from Iran in 1984 and lives in Las Vegas, says she is most relieved to see Obama in charge these next four years.
“I really want us not to have any war,” Divanbeigi said, explaining that she trusts Obama to steer the country away from unnecessary foreign entanglements during a particularly tenuous time, as the U.S. grapples with how — or whether — to respond to developments in countries such as Iran and Syria.
“(Obama) has not let himself be driven by emotion. He’s very analytical. He deals with things in a logical manner — there’s a system to his thought process, and I like that,” Divanbeigi said. “It pleases me to know that he’s not one of those presidents who's going to make an emotional decision an executive action, and then we’ll have to suffer for it 10, 20 years down the road.”
David Douglas, an Iraq war veteran from the Air Force, spoke with similar confidence about Obama’s foreign prowess.
“For me and my comrades in arms ... he’s actually given us a lot more than any president did,” Douglas said.
Douglas is using the GI Bill, which was expanded 2009, to study photography at the Art Institute of Las Vegas.
Still, the thing Douglas ranks as his top priority for Obama’s second term is an issue Obama has already made his opening play: gun control.
“He made a good start with gun control. We grew up with guns; we were hunters,” said Douglas, who is from Tennessee and came to Nevada to work at Nellis Air Force Base in 2001. “We hunted deer, rabbit — but we had no assault rifles.”
Although the culture of gun ownership is alive and strong in Nevada, every pro-Obama inaugural attendee from the state we spoke with — most of whom own guns — were completely in favor of the president’s gun control agenda.
“I do believe in the Second Amendment ... it’s good for people to have gun ownership,” Divanbeigi said. “But I am with President Obama as far as limiting the assault weapons, and definitely no military combat rifles.”
Bob Cavazos said: “I’m a former NRA member. I strongly support the measures that President Obama is trying to enact. I don’t support taking guns away from people, but an assault weapons ban? We need that.”
Although Obama has been on record as favoring gun control since the 2008 campaign, he avoided speaking about it during the first term of his presidency and during the 2012 campaign.
But since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 first-graders, six teachers, a gunman and his mother dead, Obama has called on Congress repeatedly to pass bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine rifles, and to expand background checks. He did so most recently Wednesday, when he also signed 23 executive orders into law to help speed and clarify changes to gun purchases and mental health monitoring, in order to avoid similar tragedies.
The change in the president’s tone hasn’t echoed throughout Congress, even as many lawmakers publicly mourn the Newtown victims. Not even Obama's Senate majority leader, Reid, has voiced specific support for the president’s proposed gun bans, though he did promise Wednesday to at least get Obama’s proposals to a debate in Congress.
But whether it’s gun control, immigration, energy or foreign policy, Nevada Democrats who came to D.C. to celebrate Obama’s second inauguration don’t want the president to be deterred by anything — not even unfavorable odds.
“What I want him to do is shore up his backbone and go for it. Pull a Clinton out of your back pocket,” said Corliss Douglas, a postal worker from Las Vegas and the wife of David Douglas. “Because you know, whatever side of history he stands on, it’s OK because he took the opportunity ... to stand tall and stay strong.”