By Amien Essif
I was digging through the columns I wrote for my college newspaper between 2008 and 2011, and I found one on then-president-elect Obama from just about five years ago. In light of the Obamacare debacle, when Obama’s loyal liberal legions are shocked that he has sold out on so many issues, I thought it was sobering to reread my first thoughts on him. Sobering for them, I mean. Just kidding–I know it sounds like I’m bragging about my clairvoyance, but that’s not it. The thing is, we all knew he was going to sell out, that he was a moderate at best, and pretty desperate to prove he had a crush on the free market. It’s just really satisfying to have it on record. (See bolded section for Obamacare prediction.)
From The Daily Beacon, Nov. 13, 2008:
I, too, want to forget about anything concerning the executive branch of government until the January inauguration, but consider this my final statement, an open letter to all who consider themselves liberals, progressives, radicals, socialists, communists, anarcho-syndicalists or any other person of leftist political identity.
Here’s some old and worn-out news: America has just elected Barack Obama to the office of president.
You, to whom this letter is addressed, may have celebrated on the night of Nov. 4 in the spirit of victory. This is understandable. After spending two months campaigning against both John McCain and Obama in the name of the anti-corporate candidate Ralph Nader, even I was struck with a surge of emotions when all the news channels gave the election to the Democratic candidate. After spending my entire thinking life under the nearly absolute rule of a radically imperialist, corporate, conservative regime, it felt good to see someone who is not Bush win the beauty contest we call free elections.
Before I get into the pessimism, let me detail my optimism. The 2008 election was a national referendum on race issues, and racism lost. America has finally decided a black man has the capacity to run our country. After 43 presidents with Anglo-Saxon names like Johnson, Jackson and Jefferson, this just feels good.
But race, I am glad to say, is not all I can be thankful for. Obama and the blue Congress has promised to pass the Employee Free Choice Act which will make it easier to form unions in the workplace. Simply put, this is good for labor.
And we will finally have a president with popular support who won’t get laughed at by the global community. No more of those little quote books full of evidence that our president gained office by some shortcoming of the democratic process.
On the whole, Obama is more progressive than your average Republican, but let’s not get carried away. I’ve seen too many of my comrades tear up and exclaim that he is our savior, the leader of our movement and the answer to our problems. But beyond his airy speeches, I wonder how his campaign in any way suggested this to them? At most, he is only a sign that the solutions to our problems are gaining acceptance, but a messiah he is not.
I guarantee we will fight him or pressure him more than we will help him. This prophecy is not based on insight but merely common sense. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — Obama is in no way anti-corporate. Why should I feel the need to reiterate this in light of his obviously moderate platform and his enthusiastic acceptance of corporate donations? Because the left is in a position of uncertainty, that’s why. We’ve bought into the myth that liberals, even liberal Democrats are a minority. Far too often I speak with a Democrat who says that while he or she hates coal and militarism and supports nationalized health care and gay marriage, the majority of Democrats are quite conservative. So where are all these conservative Democrats we subordinate ourselves to?
The danger in propagating this exaggeration is that we might end up with a compromised system that does not step directly on anyone’s toes but ends up useless and thus worse than either socialism or libertarianism.
Once the post-election euphoria passes through us, it will be our duty to keep Obama in check. By this I mean we are a movement with ideas, solutions and power. Obama is a politician with a career and a legacy to protect. So, while we should let him make attempts at bipartisanship, we need to remain discerning. This means no handouts to corporate donors, no compromise in the defense of the environment and no dragging feet in the regaining of our civil rights.
He has an obligation to unite the country. We all know that cliché. But he also has a mandate from 52 percent of America carrying this declaration.
So how do we keep him in check and make sure that every flex of his executive muscle directs its energy toward the recovery of the world’s suffering, not the world’s powerful? Voting against him would have helped, but it’s too late for that. Skepticism is a start, but it gets old after a while. Writing is good, but it only serves to make people more skeptical. The best solution is to stay politically engaged in every way possible on every issue you feel is important.
November is the month of relief, but if you don’t start stressing your political rights by December, you’ve been fooled by the oldest political trick — the ritualistic illusion of the democratic election, historically efficient in keeping the people content and out of the way of politicians.