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The Hopelessness of Our Dreams

Posted by anandrr on December 7, 2008

Conversation dated 4-Nov-2008 during my recent visit to the states:

Precocious-8-year-old: Whom are you voting for today?
Me: I can’t vote, I’m not a citizen.
P8yo: Oh! If you could vote, whom would you vote for?
Me: I wouldn’t vote.
P8yo: Why not?
Me: I guess I’m too cynical.
P8yo: What does cynical mean?

When I lived in the States, I was what the common American (Joe The Plumber, at any rate) would term a pinko Communist redistributionist. Here in the rest of the world, I’m some sort of Milton Friedman ogre incarnate. I never liked Bush, Lord knows I did my little bit to keep him from getting elected, I attended every single anti-war rally in SF back when anti-war rallies weren’t cool, and as most people know the title Comrade is quite the honorific in my lexicon. So one would think I would be all hopped up and excited about our Hope-And-Change Messiah and here I am as blasé as you could be. Partly it’s my inherent cynicism I suppose, but mostly it’s just that I don’t think he’s all that.

When you have Hillary Clinton leading your team on the Foreign Affairs front, Joe Biden at Veep, Robert Gates still at the Pentagon, a bunch of ex-Clintonites at State, and the lady apparently responsible for your aggressive foreign policy differentiation shunted off to a post in New York, there wouldn’t be much hope of any change in your Iraq policy. And when you have a bunch of the old guard running Treasury, I mean to say, Geithner? The guy who was in charge of the Lehman mess? What, Greenspan wasn’t available? Not that Obama’s cabinet is as bad as Bush’s, there doesn’t seem to be any manager of Arab stallions on his list of appointees (so far!). And Rahm E. certainly implied that he had the right attitude when he suggested that the recession was the right time to throw the ball long and deep. But when you consider that there is a large section of people in the world’s richest country who seem to live what can only charitably termed third world lives, and when Paulson and his cronies seem to be looting taxpayer money every which way they can, one would imagine that bringing change to Washington would, at the very least, involve not having the same old Washington hands at the helm. Eight years ago, Molly Ivins urged Americans to look at George W’s record (with which she had considerable experience) rather than his slogans (Compassionate Conservative! Reformer With Results!…). Indeed a look at his record would have told us exactly how awful his presidency was going to be. They’ve made the same mistake all over again. Obama’s record would have told us not to expect a Messiah, but rather a candidate who campaigns as one and then turns into a solid centrist, don’t-rock-the-boat leader.

During the primaries and the election, the most common criticism of Obama was that he was all words and rhetoric and had no concrete plans to speak of. While true, it was a damning criticism for a different reason than the one offered. The problem wasn’t that he had no plans, the problem was that all the soaring rhetoric essentially masked yet another product of the system representing the system. And Obama’s election is not historic because a black man was elected President, it’s historic because it shows that to get elected U.S. President it’s not important whether you’re black or white, male or female, it’s essential that you be a fully paid up member of the system and the consensus.

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5 Responses to “The Hopelessness of Our Dreams”

  1. astvkr said

    good post my friend.

  2. So a couple of questions… Did he promise anything more than a solid centrist, don’t-rock-the-boat leadership? At 53% of the popular vote, does he have much of a mandate to do anything uncentrist?

  3. anandrr said

    Obama certainly promised more than a centrist don’t-rock-the-boat leadership. It’s what threw all the liberals into his arms. He said he’d get out of Iraq, sit down for talks with Iran with no preconditions (gasp!), and so on. Reg. the popular vote, you probably have to go back to Reagan to find a president who got more of the popular vote. The one thing that the current president showed is how to spend political capital. Even when he barely squeaked through on the electoral college and didn’t win the popular vote, he still governed like he had a mandate. And it redounded to his benefit.

  4. Samir said

    But getting out of Iraq and talking to Iran are very centrist-y things, imho. He never once mentioned universal healthcare or a ban on nuclear weapons, or ban on Alaskan drilling or any of the real important things that the real left would like to see…

    The left fawned on him reflexively — anything is better than 4 more years of Republican rule, was their argument. It’s still the argument that Kos uses when folks on his blog complain about all the appointments…

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