Obama's hope and change: was it all fake?

today we've learned to hide ideas about freedom - if any even survive

Was Obama's talk about hope and change all fake, or are his continuing conservative decisions and appointments only a cover?

Are they trying to make permanent cynics out of members of the American minority that still believes in participatory government? I've been worried for a long time, since well before the election, about whether a new administration would really give us the change we need and want - and clearly mandated on November 4.

I've tried to dismiss the evidence: Both the history and the words of the man who is now our president elect had betrayed that he has what in most times and places would be described as a pretty conservative outlook and approach. I've been telling myself that it's just Obama's way of getting through the door, and that once there he might have to continue pursuing the appearance of circumspection as a stealth device for getting people to go along with the progressive, even radical change the moment demands.

In spite of the great myth, Americans just aren't very adventurous about government.

I was also trying not to jump to conclusions too early, since the election was only three weeks ago and this kind of speculation seemed to me to be a waste of time at this point, when the new administration was still embryonic, and also because he's got to be given time to get some smart homies together before charging into Washington.

But as the concessions and appointments continue, apparently announcing a seemingly inexorable reintroduction of the polices and personnel which created the colossal messes both inside and outside our borders which we're now struggling to repair, I've become very alarmed, and I'm finding I'm not the only one. I mean, this is only the latest: Gates stays?

The letter which follows, written by a reader distressed for good reason I would say, was printed in today's NYTimes. It shares my own last desperate hope for change:

To the Editor:

Re "The Candidate of Change Chooses Experience" (news analysis, front page, Nov. 22):

President-elect Barack Obama was elected running left and is now making appointments from the center-right. He could still instruct his loyal appointees to govern from the left. That would be the change we could believe in. Otherwise, the joke will be on us, again.

Doug Karo

Durham, N.H., Nov. 22, 2008


While I'm at it, let me ask who decided we have to wait almost three months to replace an administration we already voted to get rid of? Everywhere else in the civilized world governments leave as soon as they are asked to leave. Our own government, its Executive together with its Congress, today has by far the greatest burden of responsibility of any governing authority in the entire world; why do we still have to sit so vulnerable and impotent, dead in the water until next year, waiting for the spring thaw [until 1937, described as March 4, for the convenience of delegates to the Electoral College] for the control of these two obscenely-powerful institutions to be handed over to a designated successor?

[image, a detail of an 1854 engraving by Baker & Andrew of Molly Pitcher, from teachushistory]

James: What's the benefit of having tried to "dismiss the evidence" in the first place?

The best thing I can think of that could result from Obama's rather cynical marketing campaign and subsequent "bipartisanship" would be for peace-loving persons to finally make a complete break with the Democratic Party. Even better would be for them to realize that real positive change can only come from direct intervention in, and opposition to, our plutocratic political system -- not by allocating massive amounts of electoral power to representative rulers whose actions are dictated by the economic interests of our capitalist empire.

It's amazing to me the lengths to which people are still willing to ignore all the historical evidence to the contrary in order to construct a narrative that posits the Democrats as "just playing the game" in order to sneak in some sort of peaceful, egalitarian agenda. Maybe once the death toll starts rising in Afghanistan from Obama's promised redistribution of troops there will a book like Dennis Perrin's "Savage Mules" start to gain the kind of attention it deserves. Or, maybe not.

Jason, I think that the only acceptable answer to the questions we've all been asking in frustration for decades (centuries?) would be the immediate adoption of proportional representation and full public financing of elections.

Without both of these I believe we are certainly doomed.

But wouldn't proportional representation and public financing favor the interests of the majority at the expense of minorities?
While what we have now is most certainly rule by a minority (the wealthiest percentile and their lobbyists), an actual, functioning, representative democracy would be no less discriminatory -- e.g., gay marriage would still be banned in California, and the poor and otherwise marginalized would still be getting screwed over by everyone else.

Jason, I totally disagree. We are the only industrialized nation on the planet with a two-party system, and in fact the corporate ownership of both of them has resulted in a closed system inimical to progressive ideas or change of any kind. The modern multi-party and proportional representation systems of European nations, combined with their choice to use government funding to run campaigns, have provided greater recognition and support for minorities and the poor than anything ever dreamed of here.

Also, I have to say that I don't understand your problem with democracy, especially since you offer no alternative.

One of Obama's biggest campaign tactics was to flaunt being a government "outsider." If he really believed that, Obama might be filling his cabinet with fresh blood and new ideas. But he's surrounding himself with fat political resumes. I'm excited.

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Published on November 25, 2008 6:25 PM.

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