For any democrats, progressives or dumbstruck Obama supporters wondering “What the hell happened?” in Massachusetts yesterday, let me offer a few thoughts.
As Pogo once said in a famous cartoon strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
After eight years of Bush-Cheney malign neglect, the American presidency was turned over to a man who promised to change the way Washington worked. To take back power for the people. To curtail the power of the lobbyists and their entrenched special interests. To fight Wall Street for Main Street. To bridge partisan divide. And to restore America’s pride, not just as a powerful nation but a moral one as well.
And where do we find ourselves a year later?
With a president who appears to value comity over fighting for what he believes in. With a president who promised to fight for real health care reform but appeared to quickly abandon the very drug cost containment and public option elements that real reform requires.
We voted for a president who would fight drug companies for the right to import drugs from Canada and who would use America’s colossal bargaining power like a club to lower drug prices. Instead we ended up with a president who negotiated away his power in exchange for the pharmaceutical industry’s collusion in a program that would never threaten either their American monopoly or their colossal greed.
We voted for a president who would fight Wall Street but who quickly brought in the usual suspects to run things, some of them clearly tarnished by their inside involvement in the financial crisis or their initial efforts to make whole the bankers and CEOs whose greed and system manipulation caused the crisis.
This last year we have hungered for a President who would worry less about upsetting the apple cart and more about removing the bad apples and cleaning up the mess. It may have been politically expedient to give Bush and Cheney a ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card, but America’s constitution has been bloodied by their cowboy-up approach to starting wars, torturing prisoners, denying constitutional rights and subverting civil liberties.
To not shine a light on these illegal and destructive behaviors is to allow them to eat away in the dark at the cornerstone of rights that others have died to secure.
We voted for a president who, if he didn’t have the heart or courage to pursue these miscreants, would at least have had the wisdom to convene a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. If only to uphold the honor of his office and his somber responsibility to our Constitution.
Over the last year we have watched President Obama repeatedly step back from using the full weight and power of his position to foster the policies and programs he was elected to pursue. His willingness to enter into compromise or meaningless negotiation with fanatical Republicans so invested in protecting the wealth and power of entrenched interests they would never meet him halfway on any field, over any issue, will prove to be his—and probably our—undoing.
Mr. President, we elected you to clean up Dodge City, but it appears you’ve settled in far too comfortably, and much more quickly than anyone could have expected.
If your advisors tell you that you are doing a good job, fire them. If you can’t find worthy advisors to replace them, perhaps you’ll need to look beyond the boundaries of Washington, D.C.
That would be change we could believe in.