This will be quick since I’ve only seen snippets and read the cautiously optimistic reactions to it on various and sundry sites. I’m going to talk about the reactions to it from the left.
I’m not surprised that there are so many people in the left blogosphere who were hopeful about Obama’s turn towards liberalism. His forays into the left side of liberalism reminds me of one of those papers that groups put out where they discuss “progress towards the synthesis of some impossibly big and chiral natural product that will save the world from toe fungus” or something like that. I get the feeling that those authors are hoping that the project will be dropped before they have to write on it again.
Now, I realize that there are still skeptics among the hopeful but I don’t think they’re skeptical enough. What’s a little surprising is how quickly they forget that Obama started his first term with solid majorities in both houses and a filibuster proof majority in one of them and that public sentiment at the time was running so high against the banks that he could have pushed anything he wanted with the public’s blessing. Oh sure, the right would have called him a socialist but the right would have done that anyway, no matter what he did. When you’re leader of the free world with so much power and public urgency to do something, there are only a couple of reasons I can think of as to why you might do relatively nothing. The first reason is that you don’t know what the heck you’re doing and are therefore susceptible to bad advice. The second is that you think “liberalism” is a dirty word and don’t want to hurt the people who put you in office. The third possibility is that both are true.
But whatever you think went wrong with the first term, here is the thing: for many of us who were affected, the lack of action to serve the vast majority of Americans, the astonishing squandering of two years of Democratic majorities, is insurmountable. It has caused irreversible damage to our personal fortunes and those of our children. Don’t get me wrong, many of us will survive this and go on to lead productive lives again, though never again as securely and prosperously as before. But the pain and the sacrifice that we have had to endure for absolutely no reason whatsoever, the houses that were lost, the careers that have been blighted either at the beginning or the middle, the harshness of the society that we now live in, all that has lead to an America that is vastly different now than it was four years ago. This America has lost its shine. It’s living with what will soon be third world infrastructure. We have given exploitation and extraction of wealth of average Americans the official stamp of approval. We will now be guests at major scientific projects around the world instead of leaders. We have trashed our educational system by making it almost impossible for some of our most talented students to be able to afford it and we have jeopardized our public health system by making research a private endeavor optimized for maximum profit.
Four years ago, there was a golden opportunity to set things right and it was lost. Obama would have to be superhuman and extraordinarily motivated to turn this around. And even if his heart is in the right place, and I see no evidence of that, he still needs to develop the political skills to get around a gerrymandered House.
Now, this doesn’t mean that some people in this country will not succeed. I think there are still opportunities available for success in this country. But it’s going to be more of a Dickensian country in the future and that puts the teachable moment about race in its proper perspective for me. Besides, any “liberal” or “progressive” who thinks that only one group of disadvantaged people can be served at one time and that symbols are more important than actually, you know, getting things done, is a fool and a mark for psychological manipulators in future election cycles.
I don’t want to depress my side of the blogosphere or tell them all is lost or that all efforts are wasted. I’d just like for them to be realistic and evaluate the evidence and stop living in a dream world where the good guys triumph. Obama has shown you who he is. He was the wrong guy at the wrong time. He doesn’t have it in him to make it better and he doesn’t have the resources to make it work anymore. This is the guy who was elected- twice- when there were other, better choices available. Pining for Hillary to take over in 2016 doesn’t help those of us who needed a better choice back in 2008 and by 2016, it will be too late to make a difference.
These are the parameters you are working with in the next four years. In other words, you can’t rely on the White House. His speech was “just words”. Anyone can read those carefully crafted, committee synthesized words on a teleprompter. Believing them and acting on them are quite different things and we have seen with this president that he has a habit of getting the hopes up of various Americans, making them think he’s going to take action in their favor and then delivering extremely dilute solutions of eau de tea. He has very little integrity, he’s surrounded by advisors who calculate exactly how much or little effort to expend on your behalf and the trust is gone.
That’s what we’re working with.
And here is Frontline’s most recent episode on the fallout from the financial collapse of 2008 called The Untouchables. Apparently, Frontline hit a nerve with the White House.