Remember this scene? That was a really cool day wasn’t it? Today it seems more like a scene from an event that occurred in a parallel universe. It was an incredible scene; I can’t say that I’ve seen anything like it before.
We’re not likely to see anything like that again, especially now that you’ve become yet another Democratic presidential incarnation of Republican Lite. It’s an amazing phenomenon that you’ve become part of, one we’ve witnessed since the late 1980’s, when someone, somewhere, decided that the only way to become a successful, two-term Democratic president was to broker deals with right wing Republicans from an acquiescent position. Even as these policy deals have pushed the country farther and farther to the right, we receive the spin that such behavior comes from a “Centrist” position. Bill Clinton was a master at this, and I can see how someone like you would see his two-term success and, desiring such success yourself, decide to hop aboard that train. There is just one problem, sir. The train track hasn’t been running down the middle, it’s been curving in a more and more extreme fashion toward the right wing, and toward the most rich and powerful in our society. The notion of a political/cultural center has been pushed so far to the right, that we’re now beginning to consider folks in the Eisenhower Republican camp as modest liberals. President Nixon looks like a Democrat when you match his domestic policies alongside those of George W. Bush.
Mr. President, let me get to the point. That big crowd you looked out upon while you were being inaugurated our President, they didn’t come to see the man who just participated in this Grand Charade your handlers call the Great Compromise. They, along with the many millions more who worked behind the scenes to get you elected, didn’t celebrate because they thought you would become so impotent in standing up to the extremists on the right. They certainly didn’t celebrate the continuation of the Bush presidency torture practices, the continued sacrifice of blood and treasure in the unnecessary Iraq war, the capitulation to the hawks and war profiteers in Afghanistan, the continued renditions of people without accountability, or the continued moral bankruptcy of Guantanamo. That huge crowd came to celebrate the inauguration of someone who promised to be a strong advocate of our very best principles of liberty and justice; they came to see someone they believed would offer the best possible response to the ruinous, devastating politics practiced under the previous administration. You, Mr. President, here in the summer of 2011, bear little resemblance to that man standing on the inaugural platform.
I’m sure there are smart people, very smart people, who tell you you’re shrewdly navigating the tightrope of governing this roiling and dysfunctional system of ours. I’ll bet they’re even telling you how well you’re positioning yourself for re-election in 2012. I can see how tempting it is to buy what they’re selling. But stop buying it, Mr. President, because in my own experience I know that it just isn’t true.
I know some of the people you’re counting on in the next election, folks who call themselves Independents, many of whom seem to be pleasantly surprised that you’re not the Marxist, Kenyan, Sleeper-Cell Terrorist that they kept hearing about. You’re thinking you might pull a few from their numbers this time, adding to a prodigious base of people that runs the spectrum from semi-left, to center, to semi-right.
Guess what? I know some of these people, Mr. President, and you can count on them to vote against you every time. Oh, they might talk about how their minds aren’t made up until they enter the voting booth, but once they do, they always vote Republican. Always. Unless they’re really feeling that the Republican is too much of a tool, then they vote Libertarian. Reach out to them all you want, sir; you’re wasting your time.
Meanwhile, Mr. President, you’re losing precious energy and support among the true believers in Obama, v.2008. Those folks expected a bold man who would act in ways that backed up his bold rhetoric. I met so many of these people during your campaign, and they weren’t just formerly burned-out, re-energized relics from the closet where they keep all the Kennedy-era liberals. Speaking of Kennedy, how do you think Teddy would apprise your presidency if he were still with us? Just wondering.
Your campaign brought together this amazing amalgamated groundswell of support. I met older folks who were once Republicans–Eisenhower Republicans and Reagan Republicans–who just couldn’t take it anymore. I met young people who were not only first-time voters, they were first-time activists. There were people from all walks of life who had come together in the awareness that we needed dramatic change and that you seemed to offer the boldness and courage that would pull us back from the precipice of economic and social ruin. Now I wonder how many of those folks would recognize the man at the microphone in the White House Press room, the one who resigns himself to the notion that the Radical Republicans didn’t get everything they wanted and reasons that this is the best possible outcome. Never mind the cost to the people who saw you as their standard bearer, the one who could best stand up for them because you came from them.
I’m not sure what you expected at your inauguration, Mr. President. Was it some tidal wave like we’ve seen roll through Wisconsin, one that would continue to lift you up and carry you along? Did you think you could stand above the fray and through sheer force of decency and determination, convince your opposition to give in to you? Clearly, it’s not working. The Mitch McConnell strategy IS working. They’re winning, and the public perception is that they’re winning. So guess what that makes you?
I doubt you can do this–it just doesn’t seem to be part of your nature–but now is the time to roll up your sleeves and hop down into the pit to do a little wrestling alongside the liberals and progressives that are doing all they can to prevent the roll back of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs that helped boost our overall standard of living the last few decades. The union-busters are out in full force, clubbing away at teachers, firefighters, and any other group they decide to take down. You might want to change the perception that you are watching all of this like you would a pay-per-view boxing match.
Speaking of boxing, you ducked and dodged that whole 14th amendment thing with skills I haven’t seen Muhammad Ali, and indeed you had pundits thinking you were engaged in some sort of masterful rope-a-dope strategy. The bad news appears to be that the Dope is still landing good body shots, and even when the Dope shows signs of fatigue or weakness, you show little interest in getting off the ropes to land a few shots of your own.
Well, Mr. President, you’re a busy man and I’m sure you’ve got more important business requiring your attention, so I’ll cut this short.
Look at that inaugural picture, sir. Look at it for the miracle it was. Enjoy it and celebrate it. It’s likely the last such crowd you and I will ever again see drawn to an inauguration ceremony. What a time it was.