For the record, I am a liberal: someone who loves Bernie Sanders and the late Paul Wellstone. However, I am convinced that many who share my ideals and convictions are unhappy with Obama. If you fall under this category, I hate to say it, but I do not think you fully understand what Obama was doing on the campaign trail, what he is doing now, and the maneuverability within the American political economy.
While it is true that no president reaches the high office without being at least a little corrupt, it is also wrong to believe that once Obama was elected that a liberal paradise would ensue — that everything Bush did would be reversed. As Benjamin Franklin said, politics is the art of the possible; and in a country where 1 percent of the people have most of the money and control most of the opinion, how could Obama do everything we want him to? Can you even begin to imagine the backlash our president would suffer if he were to do the things that we liberals want to see?
If Obama tried to go after Bush and Cheney for their war crimes, if he pushed for a single payer system, if he pushed for legalizing gay marriage, if he pushed for taxing the rich even more, if he completely reversed the tides of our global empire that has economically colonized many poor countries — if he all did this and everything else we want, what would happen?
The wealthy 1 percent would unleash the dogs on Obama — though since we are dealing with mostly old and rich white men, the more proper term is probably fire hoses — and in effect, Obama would be reduced to the epitome of inefficacy, and nothing would get accomplished. They would embellish statements, take statements out of context, or just flat out lie and fabricate, all of which would then trickle down through their own bought and paid for media, turning public opinion against him. We would see one of the largest shifts in public opinion, and in effect, the Republicans would be ripe for a 2012 election and a mandate from the people to do more unjust things.
Obama has to throw the wealthy a few bones here and there, and these concessions result in what we consider to be injustice. This is simply brilliant politics. It seems unjust, but in the long run it is just, because it is the best that can be done. Obama understands that you cannot have monumental changes; change must come incrementally, or else you run the risk of losing everything. And certainly, no one wants a French Revolution: an era in which people were getting their heads cut off for saying the wrong thing, and an era that spawned one of the greatest warmongers of all time.
I believe we would all rather have incremental change — just as the way the British Monarchy evolved over the years — instead of large and unpredictable swings. Furthermore, let us not forget Obama has done some good things so far: he has lifted the ban on stem cell research, he has given homosexuals more rights, he is slowly — again, slowly — drawing back from Iraq, and we seem closer to health care reform than we have been in a long time. This is incremental change. Again, some say you need monumental change. I agree, it would do us good, but attempting it would not work, and if we tried it, all would be lost.
We must also understand that we are luckier to have this current president than any other in the last 60 years. Kennedy was barely a liberal — he bought and stole the election of 1960 and drove us farther into the Cold War and the military industrial complex. LBJ did good things for blacks, but that is about it; he had no understanding of guerilla warfare and the situation in Vietnam. Carter was simply too naïve, operating mostly on principle — and look what happened to him — while Clinton rushed too quickly, lost the Congress, and could not keep it in his pants, rendering fodder for the 1 percent to neutralize him.
Obama is above all these things, which scares me because this scares the 1 percent: a group that is capable of doing, and getting away with, almost anything. Ultimately, though, Obama is only six months in, and we cannot know how he will turn out. I have a suspicion that, when all is said and done, he will be considered one of our greatest presidents.
Daniel Brown is the owner of Ames business The Singer Station, which was profiled by Features Editor Cris Matibag in Issue 3.5 of the Ames Progressive.