The silence is deafening. The crowds that roared their adulations and joy in Chicago’s Lincoln Park last November are quiet. The only noise we hear is that coming from the right. Paul Krugman notes that, “Mr. Obama’s backers seem to lack all conviction, perhaps because the prosaic reality of his administration isn’t living up to their dream of transformation. Meanwhile, the angry right is filled with a passionate intensity.”
Obama ran as a centrist. This was obvious in June of last year when he voted to approve the FISA extension, right after he had waffled on his pledge to reform NAFTA. However, the masses didn’t see it that way. His promises of, “Change you can believe in,” and his chant, “Yes we can!” raised the public’s expectations of a sweeping revolution as soon as he took office.
I suspect a lot of his appeal came from the fact that he had an inarticulate Bush and a doddering McCain as foils.
The public should have realized that the revolution wasn’t going to happen as soon as he started talking about “consensus building.” Revolutions aren’t built on consensus. The idea of a revolution is to radically alter and literally reform an existing structure of power. Yet, it is a fact that those who hold power will not yield it through consensus. There may be a little window dressing, but power clings to itself unless this power is torn from its hands, and the only way to do this is to amputate the hands that hold it.
Attempting to compromise with power is doomed to fail because the compromise is always on power’s terms. We are seeing this with the thousand-page health bill which is a Byzantine exercise in bureaucratic chaos and confusion. Under the guise of providing “public” coverage, the insurance companies will make out like bandits when coverage becomes mandatory. The part that provides for a government sponsored policy will never see the light of day. The Blue Dogs will see to that.
Right now, Obama’s silenced followers fall into two camps: those who are totally disillusioned with him, and those who cling to the belief that it’s only a matter of time before his progressive soul is revealed.
Speaking of FDR’s New Deal, Joe Bageant points out that, “Capitalism is a parasitic disease of human society and the earth to begin with, so it’s rather like giving a dying tapeworm vitamins.” In the tradition of FDR, Obama continues to feed the worm.