My, how the pendulum has swung.
A year ago, people of our political persuasion were falling all over themselves in joyous disbelief—here and around the world—that Barack Obama was about to be our president. Yes, by god, Our President!
A dark night in America’s checkered history was about to end. People who couldn’t afford it, didn’t have the time to spare, and usually wouldn’t be bothered were trying to finagle Inaugural Day invitations and figure out which long-lost relative’s couch might be available.
Cripes, my wife, Sharon—who can’t stand being jostled coming out of a movie theatre—gave the idea a long thought.
Now, just a year later? You’d think Obama has peeled off his disguise to reveal that he’s what? Dick Cheney? Rush Limbaugh’s younger brother? Satan Incarnate?
But he’s not, and here’s one vote for all of us taking one of my daughter’s chill pills.
How Could It Have Been Worse?
Far from ending America’s military adventuring in the Middle East, the Obama Administration has ordered more troops into Afghanistan and seems fully onboard the Neocon fantasy of a long-term American presence there.
Far from advancing a thoroughgoing healthcare reform that would cover all our citizens—just like they do in every other developed nation you can name—the Obama Administration and its friends in Congress spent 2009 kissing every last Centrist ass it could find to bring forward a pathetic thousand-page mishmash that will require certain classes of Americans to buy insurance they can’t afford, while protecting the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry’s obscene profits every way from Sunday.
Far from putting America back to work so the country could pull out of the history-making economic crisis George Bush and his cronies created, Obama’s advisors created programs that have kept unemployment at 10 percent—and double that or more among Black men—while Wall Street brokers award themselves million-dollar bonuses.
Far from…Change We Can Believe In, indeed.
But you want worse?
Imagine President John McCain’s plan to further deregulate the banking industry so those trickle-down profits Ronald Reagan promised would finally get to us.
Imagine Vice President Sarah Palin’s nationwide speaking tour to advance her “Just Cross Your Legs” Family Planning Initiative.
Imagine grey eminences Karl Rove and Dick Cheney arriving with great pomp for their weekly White House strategy sessions.
Imagine George W. Bush as America’s Ambassador at Large to the world’s troubled spots far and wide.
Sharon and I sit in on Mario Solis-Marich’s KTLK AM1150 progressive talk radio show most Sunday afternoons. Probably more times than the listeners care to recall I have said that if John McCain were president today, we would be discussing troop levels in Tajikistan.
More than that, we would be moving even more steadily toward the warped Neoconservative vision for America—an America with a preeminent military-industrial complex supporting virtually perpetual war-making; an America sharply canted to protect and foster wealthy investor classes at the expense of everyday working folk; an America where racial and regional differences are exacerbated to create political gain…
Okay, right, that is America as it comes into this new millennium. But with a McCain-Palin Administration, the sea change that began with Ronald Reagan and washed through both Bush presidencies, pausing but not reversing itself during Clinton’s eight years, would be gaining even more momentum, moving us inexorably toward an even uglier future.
With Barack Obama in the White House, and Joe Biden at his side, we at least have a chance to move in a better direction.
How Do We Move Forward?
First, let’s all take that chill pill. We backed Obama’s candidacy for a reason, and it wasn’t because we mistook him for Dennis Kucinich.
So what was it?
Most of us understood Obama wasn’t advocating the sudden end to our Middle East adventuring that we liberals want, or a single-payer healthcare system we think would benefit the country immensely, or revolutionary economic programs that create an equitable society for our children.
To get elected, we understood that he had to take a pragmatic approach. But underneath the pragmatism, we were attracted to the compassionate world view, the deep ability to grasp complex issues, and the soaring eloquence to voice our best hopes and dreams for the future that we saw, and see, in the man—traits that had been so woefully absent in George W. Bush’s fear-mongering, hate-mongering, war-mongering reign.
And even if only a part of our rose-colored views were correct, we have to believe Obama has the makings of a great leader who can recognize when plans have gone off track and has the courage to chart a new course. That combination of confidence, humility, and courage is why we worked so hard to elect him.
After all, if being president was easy, with everything just falling in place after Inauguration Day, we could switch to an American Idol election approach and let Kellie Pickler have a crack at the job. It would be more fun than phone-banking, tabling, and precinct walking.
So Where to Begin?
First, Obama and his advisors need to understand that they’ve gotten into their current pickle because of things they have done. Sure, the well-funded opposition in Congress has proven exceptionally clever—it helps not to be burdened with a conscience—even with so few seats. And, yes, the George Bush debacle put the country in a deep, deep hole on virtually every front. But it was Obama administration mistakes that have eroded support within its own base so dramatically.
Second, Obama needs to recognize that his reach-across-the-aisle, can’t-we-all-just-love-each-other, bipartisan approach is an abject failure, if for no other reason than that the people he’s reaching out to want nothing better than for his presidency to fail. Obama and his people need to recognize that it was impassioned liberals that fueled his candidacy, not some-of-this, some-of-that middle-of-the-roaders—and certainly not Republicans in disguise like Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus.
Third, Obama needs to score a meaningful, progressive victory, such as putting America back to work. If you can’t get Corporate America to stop shipping well-paid jobs off to India and the Philippines, then create government-run jobs program like Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Projects Administration (WPA). Seriously, America’s roads, rails, parks, airports, and public buildings are in disrepair. Create programs that put people to work fixing them. It’s often said that the best social program is a job, but the way you create more teabaggers bringing side arms to rallies is to keep them worried about how they’re going to feed their families.
Once you’ve rallied your natural supporters again, reach out to the working classes that most need the social programs liberal Democrats espouse, then you can revisit our woeful healthcare system, our endless wars, and our disreputable approach to immigration. Get everyday Americans back to work with good-paying jobs so they can feed their families, educate their kids, and buy their own health insurance, you’ll have them for generations.
Will that be easy? Of course not. But if President Obama marshals his troops to fight for fundamental, meaningful progressive changes, the people who worked so hard to elect him and who celebrated so joyously at his election will line up beside him and fight every bit as hard as he does.
And if he doesn’t? Well, then we can talk about Plan B.
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Dick Price, Editor, LA Progressive