Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Obama and change. . .

It is funny that the degree to which people in the media are debating the status of Barak Obama now that he is nearly a year into his term. There is all this surprise that he seems to have done little of any significance and can hardly be said to be a very ‘different’ president from others in recent history. Citics on the left have pointed out that Obama has supported many of the same policies as Bush did including keeping the war machine going (despite a Nobel Prize), spending millions for Wall Street, and even supporting the same kind of domestic spying programs. I have only one question: who was naïve enough to expect anything different? Oh yes, we all had a moment there when we believed in the audacity of hope. But then we regained consciousness. The fact is that the American political system, though democratic in principle, suffers from certain fundamental  problems. Without any real party system, the US representatives are reduced to a bunch of individual politicians trying to maintain their little fiefdom; there is no national policy, nothing that the US public can get behind and fight for. Thus even though a strong majority supports a national healthcare program, for example, it can’t get done. Barak Obama isn’t getting anything done because his is one guy trying to get the consensus of hundreds of Representatives and one hundred senators, all who are acting on their own for their own political future. Barak Obama could be the greatest guy in the world and really want to make significant changes and it wouldn’t matter, he could only make these changes if, like FDR, he were willing to go way out on a limb to push a radical agenda, but he is just not that kind of politician. I grew up in the States and I went to high school and grad school there. I met many great people, may radicals who wanted to make changes that to me didn’t even seem very radical. But I realized fairly soon that the US is not unlike the Roman Empire, once power structures have been established and stabilized, and many people have huge amounts of money and prestige to protect, change doesn’t come easy, particularly in a political system which was created to maintain the power of an upper-class (think of the so-called founding ‘fathers’) change will not come easy.  

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