In now two-term President Obama’s inauguration speech today, he certainly “talked the talk” of a progressive, but will he “walk the walk?”
In some ways, he certainly already has. He ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” he came out in support of marriage rights for all, he appointed two women to the Supreme Court, he finally ended the war in Iraq, and a few other things.
But President Obama has been quite conservative on some big issues. He’s, if anything, increased the country’s war activities, used pilotless drones to assassinate people from the sky, increased spying activities on our own citizens, raided state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries, deported many more aliens than Bush, refused to even consider meaningful legal action against the robber barons that screwed the middle class and our whole economy, and kept merrily in place the same economic voodoo shamans that President Bush had… the same people who enabled the robber barons in the first place.
And all this while supposedly being a communist. Wow!
What I can’t help but wonder is, if Obama is a progressive, why has he hidden it so well, during his first term? I know the conventional thinking – he had to stay near the so-called “center” (which is far to the right of the center, even 15 years ago) in order to have a good shot at re-election. But why? What if he hadn’t been re-elected? Then we would have gone from center-right to far-right… and that means that every one of us except the 1% would have lost.
In addition, Obama now has just four years to accomplish anything, and most of the efforts and attention will be on what should properly be called “gun-mass-murder control” (not “gun control”). We have seen not one hint of consideration, by Obama, to the fact that our present economic pathway is still the same one that led to the current depression.
And it is a depression. Recessions are, by definition, short-term blips – speed bumps, really, in the path of our economic progress. Depressions mean long-term unemployment and long-term troughs in things like the housing market. We’ve had millions of people unemployed for a period of more than a year. That’s a depression.
We need a fundamental realignment of our capitalism away from concentrated profits and diffuse risks to stability and full employment. This is not “wanting ‘stuff’ from the government,” it’s wanting the government to stop working against the people. We’ve heard lots of talk about helping the middle class. Let’s see some real action.
Will the real Obama please stand up?
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.