The whole knock on President Obama not living up to his promises ignores that nothing major can be done in the U.S. political system without the support of Congress.
Furthermore, traditionally, presidents rarely get done everything they promise; it’s an American custom. I always took Obama’s eloquent campaign speeches with a grain of salt myself, not because he personally is a hypocrite, but because that’s the American game. Obama especially would never have been elected without making great campaign speeches because he is Black. He needed that extra leverage to overcome white supremacy.
It wasn’t President Obama who didn’t get single-payer health care. We didn’t get it past the entire Republican Party and the Democratic Party Blue Dogs in Congress. So, if you hear him propose cutting the military budget and don’t back him up by you yourself organizing an occupation of the Pentagon or something similar, do not come back later and say the president didn’t live up to his nice words. Take his speeches as marching orders not pleasant ideas and sounds.
With all that said, somehow the tea party demagogues or ultra-left thinking have caused even liberals and progressives to think the health care reform that passed is of no benefit to 99 percent of Americans, for example. Recently articles have come out on the positives that were achieved in the law coming into effect. But somehow the news media or racism has robbed Obama of his significant achievements in this regard.
Other examples: The fact that the president has fulfilled his campaign promise of ending the war on Iraq has no political significance to so many on the left. Most feminists are silent on his splendid record on women’s rights (Pay Equity Act passed, two women and only women appointed to the Supreme Court, stem cell research authorized, etc.)
Obama will get nothing done if there is no movement from the bottom up. As he himself put it repeatedly during the 2008 campaign, change comes from the bottom up; there is no such thing as single-handed heroes, even presidents. Everybody will have to pitch in and fight or it won’t happen. This is the real world, not Neverland.
That is the challenge for the left and progressive movement: build a mass movement of tens of millions, as was done in the 1930s, to win a new New Deal.
Photo: President Obama speaks at a Labor Day rally in Detroit. John Rummel/PW