I’m not a great one for year-end lists, and Looking Back (sagely or otherwise) at The Year That Was. But I thought I’d share this reflection.
The biggest political story of the year, I think, should have been the huge gulf between the Obama we were sold (Obama-who-walks-on-water) and the Obama we find we actually bought (Obama-who-governs-strangely-like-Bush-in-so-many-ways).
Notice that I’m not even referring to the obsessive-compulsive need to envelop Republicans in his warm legislative embrace, the need which led to making huge concessions before negotiations even started (sometimes to the point of giving away the store in advance), the need which led to continuing to make concessions even as Republicans laughed in his face and publicly declared they weren’t negotiating in good faith, in fact they weren’t even negotiating at all, and that they would vote in lockstep against whatever deal was eventually “negotiated”.
And I’m not referring to this obsessive-compulsive need, because this was hardly a surprise. This is exactly what Obama had advertised throughout his presidential campaign he was going to do, bring us all together, Republicans and Democrats, and forge consensus, heal all our George Bush wounds by applying the balm of compromise, which would involve bending over backwards to meet Republicans halfway, regardless of how absurd their positions were, and how inflexible.
Here’s how little of a surprise it was. Here at 1115.org, we were already complaining about him doing it — not talking about doing so, but doing it already — back in August of 2008 (when he suddenly decided to “back limited offshore drilling as part of a broader energy package that attempted to bring down gas prices” after firmly opposing offshore drilling as a policy of pointless pandering).
But back in the giddy days of “Yes, we can!” and “Change you can believe in!” — when people who should have known better became starry-eyed Obama girls — anyone who tried to ask questions about what Obama’s defining principle of bipartisan compromise would involve, and how it could possibly work in practice, given that the Republicans were who they had become, was just ignored and dismissed. There was, evidently, some kind of deeply felt need to embrace Obama without critical scrutiny, to feel offended by critical scrutiny.
So the bipartisan-compromise-mania certainly wasn’t a bait-and-switch. But what about all the myriad issues where Obama — after imploring us to elect him so that he could dismantle Bushworld — unaccountably decided that what he wanted to do most of all was to seamlessly continue some of Bush’s seamiest and most odious policies?
Here, via Glenn Greenwald, is a short list:
Has he appointed financial officials who have largely served the agenda of the Wall Street and industry interests that funded his campaign? Has he embraced many of the Bush/Cheney executive power and secrecy abuses which Democrats once railed against — from state secrets to indefinite detention to renditions and military commissions? Has he actively sought to protect from accountability and disclosure a whole slew of Bush crimes? Did he secretly a (sic) negotiate a deal with the pharmaceutical industry after promising repeatedly that all negotiations over health care would take place out in the open, even on C-SPAN? … Is Bob Herbert right when he condemned Obama’s detention policies as un-American and tyrannical, and warned: “Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House”?
What’s really funny, though, is how, despite all this, Obama still walks on water for so many people.
Maybe I should rephrase what I said at the beginning?
The biggest political story of the year, I think, should have been how so many people are still so blind to the huge gulf between the Obama we were sold (Obama-who-walks-on-water) and the Obama we find we actually bought (Obama-who-governs-strangely-like-Bush-in-so-many-ways).