Tuesday, January 19, 2010

President Obama's First Year-- part 1

One year ago, there was a great deal of hope in this country, as President Obama took the oath of office with more than one million people standing outside watching on a cold winter day. I was not among those people, but I was there in spirit as I watched it with a campaign group at a hotel (and I was warm). It was really a magical day all around, and my spirit was lifted greatly by President Obama. Since I anticipate this post to be very long, I am instead making it a two part series.

I consider myself fiercely progressive, but I am also a realist. I realized that President Obama is not as progressive as I am when I voted for him in the primary in February 2008. My original choice for president was Dennis Kucinich, later John Edwards, who both dropped out of the primary before I had the chance to vote (in retrospect, I am glad that Edwards dropped out when he did because his affair would have ensured us a John McCain presidency.) Does the Democratic Party represent me 100%? No. However their platform aligns with my values much more than the Republican Party does, and therefore I am a Democrat. I’m loyal to my party because I do not want to see Republicans gain power again (they just did in New Jersey and I’m afraid for my state now.) There is one major issue I have with my party though, and that is the elected officials’ inability to locate and use their spines and stand up to the Republicans on issues that matter to their constituents. (There are a few notable exceptions like Alan Grayson on the federal level and Loretta Weinberg on the state level).

With all that background out of the way, if I were going to grade President Obama’s performance in his first year, I would give him a C+. If I was polled by a pollster tomorrow and asked whether or not I approve of President Obama’s job performance, I would say yes, but that yes is marginal. Most of my criticism of President Obama is about the people he chooses to surround himself with and not the President himself. This is a man who ran on a ‘change you can believe in’ campaign slogan and campaigned on hope. A year later, I am not seeing much hope. My theory for the reasons for this is the staff and cabinet that President Obama chose to surround himself with, particularly three people—Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and Economic Advisor Larry Summers. They represent the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, and not the populist wing.

However President Obama and his corporatist cabinet are not playing to the progressive base. I wrote about Emanuel before (and it won’t be the last time I write about him--- firing him would be a gift to his base, and could excite the party again) and his ties to the health care industry (his brother). This is perhaps why President Obama broke a campaign promise of allowing the government to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry for cheaper drugs for seniors. At the beginning of the health care debate, the insurance industry had a seat at the table yet single-payer advocates did not. That has Emanuel’s hands all over it.
President Obama ran on the platform of change, meaning changing the way that corporations rule Washington. He was on the campaign trail for almost two years saying that lobbyists’ power will be severely limited in his administration. Instead things are worse. The Baucus healthcare bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee was practically written by health insurance industry lobbyists. The American people are divided about the health care bill. One major media network that shall remain nameless has spread outright lies about the bill. They claim that it means the government will take over the healthcare process, and it’s downright false. There’s not even a choice of a public option anymore because the insurance industry bought off “centrist Democrats” like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.

The healthcare issue will either make or break President Obama. Both sides realize it which is why the right is fighting it tooth and nail. However because he’s caved so far to the right (compromising on a public option, drug price negotiations, and mandates), the base is abandoning him. As I write this, the Democrats are on the verge of losing Ted Kennedy’s seat in what many call the most liberal state in the union to a teabagger. Just as in New Jersey in November, the party and candidates are not preaching to the choir.

President Obama claims to want to do things in a bipartisan manner. However in this political environment, one party is all about spreading lies and the other one tries to reach across the aisle, and waters down legislation that the other party would not vote for anyways. Yes it is true that IL Senator Obama said at the 2004 DNC that there are no red states and blue states, just the United States. Very good speech, but we’re more divided than we ever were, and as much as I wish he would be the one to unite the country, instead he’s brought out the Glenn Becks of the world who insight violence.

Unless President Obama goes on a progressive kick, his party is in trouble come November. If we want to win come November, we need to focus on putting people back to work. And FAST. Americans voted for change in 2008, not the corporate bullshit that we’re being fed. They want change, and it has to be done NOW.


Dan said...
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Caroline said...

Dan I don't tolerate that kind of language in my blog comments. If you don't like what I have to say then you can go read over at the Drudge Report okay?