Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Scales Are Falling

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I thought that the only “serious” candidate vying for the Democratic nomination in 2008 (that criterion ruled out Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel) who offered any hope at all, however slight, for seizing what was plainly a rare historical opportunity for significant, beneficial “change” – who might, just might, take on corporations and banks and other “malefactors of great wealth” at least to the extent that the more radical Progressives and New Dealers did when similar opportunities presented themselves – was John Edwards. I thought so mainly because I thought Edwards could be counted on to advance organized labors’ interests, and that, if he could succeed in doing so, it would shift the domestic balance of power somewhat – at least back to where it was before our politics went south under Ronald Reagan and his successors (including Bill Clinton).

Unfortunately, the Edwards campaign ended badly, months before it became known just how badly it ended. Thus primary voters were left with a choice between a full-fledged Clintonite Restoration, led by the First Lady of Clintondom, and a lesser Clintonite Restoration, led by Barack Obama. To my relief, the lesser Clintonite side won. But then Barack Obama picked Joe Biden to be his running-mate; and later, after the election was over, he proceeded to pile Clintonite after Clintonite into his administration -- even to the point of making his erstwhile rival his Secretary of State. Thus it became clear to all with eyes to see that the anti-Clinton side’s victory was largely illusory; that it would not be our fate even to enjoy cosmetic changes in the Clintonite Restoration underway. For a long time, though, few had eyes to see. The vast majority of liberal voters, along with “independents,” were mired in a happy, Obama-induced, illusion, dreaming the dream of “change.”

In the months that followed, even those of us who never expected much from Barack Obama, still found ample reason to be disappointed. But we are less alone than we used to be. The ranks of the disappointed are growing by leaps and bounds.

For Obama’s first hundred days and beyond, countless folks who should have known better all along exercised all their ingenuity in cutting the new President slack, even as the evidence mounted that instead of “change,” what we would be getting was just a more competent version of the politics that has blighted our land at least since the Reagan days. Thus, instead of ending the (long ago lost) Bush Wars, Obama continued the one in Iraq and intensified the one in Afghanistan. Instead of re-regulating Wall Street, Obama and his team of Wall Street functionaries, bailed out its most flagrant predators and profiteers. Instead of proposing health care (actually health insurance) reforms that, like the ones John Edwards advanced, would lead inexorably to a single-payer system, he let a bought and paid for Congress develop an incoherent mishmash with, maybe, a milquetoast “public option.” Instead of addressing labor issues, the Employee Free Choice Act especially, he has done almost nothing for working people beyond humoring the leaders of their unions. Instead of bringing Bush and Cheney and other Bush era war criminals to justice, Obama is busy “looking forward.” Instead of making good use of his once enormous political capital, Obama engaged in foolhardy and ultimately self-defeating “bipartisanship.” And so, on and on.

Nevertheless, Obamamania survived for months after the Inauguration. No matter whom he re-empowered, no matter what policies he proposed, it was all deemed part of a master strategy, too clever for words, out of which would come the “change” Obama promised. But you can only fool most liberals most of the time; and you can’t do it forever. At long last, reality is kicking in. The scales are dropping away from the dreamers’ eyes.

Thus I find that I have less to say than I used to about how wide the gap is between the reality of the Obama administration and the hopes it engendered -- because so many others, many of whom have access to major media outlets, are saying it for me. There is, of course, some gratification in having been right all along. But this is of no consequence in the face of the ever-increasing likelihood that, yet again, a major historical opportunity is being lost.

Within the next week or two, decisions will be made in the White House about what kind of health insurance reform will go forward and about whether the Afghanistan War will continue full-throttle – for no plausible strategic purpose and at great cost, not just to the treasury but to the security of the “homeland” as well. Thus there is still a chance, albeit slight, that Obama will find it within himself and within his party of bought and paid for cowards to salvage something worthwhile from what could have been. I wouldn’t bet on it, however.

The situation will become clearer soon enough. What is clear now is that to prove pessimists like me wrong, it will be necessary for the scales to fall entirely away from the eyes of those who want to push Obama along. Contrary to the conventional, Obamamaniacal wisdom of the recent past, Obama is no Lone Ranger. Long ago, he decided to run – and govern – from within the corporate fold, and without shaking up the political establishment. In other words, he decided not even to try to expand the constraints in the way Edwards might have. So long as Obama remains fixed in this mode – and there is no reason to think he has any inclination to change – there is no reason to impute any inscrutable strategic genius to his bipartisan panderings. It is true now, as it always has been, that, where Obama’s governance is at issue, what we see is what we get – provided we see clearly what is there, not what we would like to be there as we dream. For the “change” Obama promised to come to pass, the baseless idea that he is already somehow making it come to pass must be thoroughly and completely overcome.

Leave it, therefore, to Clintonite liberal groups, like, to defend Obama’s milquetoast reform policies against the lunatic Right. Partisans of the change Obama seemed to speak of should, instead, rail against Obama from the left – to force him, kicking and screaming, if need be, to restore the rule of law (by bringing Bush era criminals to justice), to end the Bush (now Obama) wars, to continue the call for single-payer health insurance, to regulate (not placate) Wall Street, and to force Obama to champion the interests of the constituencies who elected him – organized labor, above all. To collaborate with the mainstream of the Party of Pusillanimity, not to mention its right-wing Blue Dog component, is now more than ever to reinforce a problem that there is still a chance to begin to solve. The time is long past due to see this clearly, and to militate accordingly.

1 comment:

Benedictus said...

This is good as far as it goes. For a deeper analysis which points out how little Obama's own choices have to do with it, read, or listen to, this commentary: