Tuesday, August 18, 2009

And Another Thing!

Let me go back and quote again this bit I found on Facebook:
Republican ... Democrat ... Independent .... Liberal .... why don't our elected Congressmen and Senators listen to us and do what we voted them to do ...... we want structured, accountable change, backed by meaningful fiscal responsibility ...... do we have to have an American Revolution to get our point across.
So, who's "we"? It is not at all clear to me what We Americans want. I'd begin any such discussion, I hope, by acknowledging that different Americans want different things, and proceed to ask which Americans want what.

I don't believe that this writer was speaking for most Americans. In the most general terms, you could make a case: most of us probably feel that our elected officials don't do what we want them to, but different we's want them to do different things. Most American voters voted for Barack Hussein Obama last November, and he won the election decisively. It's not clear what Obama voters thought they were voting for, and again, I wouldn't assume that they all hoped for the same things. I think that many of them were voting against the Republican Party as much as they were voting for Obama, but that in itself would tell you a lot. If many people who voted for Obama are disappointed in him now, it's probably not because he's not acting enough like Bush, but rather because he's acting too much like him. As Avedon Carol wrote right after the election:
You know, we were told over and over that Obama was "the most liberal member of the Senate" (not true, but I'm sure lots of people believed he was really liberal), and the Republicans even insisted that Obama was a socialist - and yet the people elected him! So Obama has a mandate to be at least a screaming liberal, or even a socialist, right?
I've pointed this out to various nice, sensitive, well-educated Obama supporters I know, and it seems to make them uncomfortable. They're very concerned that Obama shouldn't appear to be an angry, screaming radical, because it would hurt him somehow. I wonder. It seems to me that his careful, cautious, moderate act -- almost certainly dictated by concern about how he'll look to the public -- is hurting him too, and is going to hurt him more as time goes on. Forthrightly accepting his socialist mandate would hurt him among the right-wing Democrats who run the Party, the corporate donors who funded his campaign and expect his deference, and that could be a problem. But it would make him look so much better to the mass of people who actually voted for him. The far right, the Teabaggers, the birthers, and so on, would continue to rave, but they're raving already; they were already raving during the campaign. They want him dead, frankly. They will never like him no matter what he does, just as they hated Bill Clinton no matter how many of their pet policies he enacted, so Obama should stop trying to appease them.

I use the word appease very deliberately. The people who are attacking Obama now most visibly -- and the corporate media are giving them a lot of visibility -- don't seem to be people who voted for him anyway. Obama, like other elected officials, is obliged to represent and serve those who voted against him as well as those who voted for him, but that doesn't mean he has to put his neck in a noose for them. It's clear from the Limbaugh Right's antics that they expect nothing less. They have no constructive proposals, and are only interested in smashing up as much as they can. (Yes, there's an echo there of complaints about the New Left in the 60s. To the extent that it has any validity, it's far more valid about the spectacles we're seeing now.)

We who aren't elected officials, of course, are under no such obligation. Back to the guy from Facebook, complaining that his elected representatives don't listen to them and do what they voted them do. This guy didn't vote for Obama to do anything, so he can't very well complain that Obama's not doing what he voted for him to do. "We want structured, accountable change, backed by meaningful fiscal responsibility." That's nice and vague, but this guy doesn't speak for the majority of Americans, or even for the majority of November 2008 voters: as far as I can tell, "we" in his complaint means the hard core of Republicans who cheered Bush on for eight years, through tax cuts for the rich, the tightening of control on civil liberties, and two crushingly expensive wars, heedless of the skyrocketing deficit and the horrific human costs of the Bush regime, roughly until last fall's bank bailout. That's the group that lost the election; they're not the ones who voted Obama and the Democrats into power. The majority of the voters didn't want any more of that, and we aren't obliged to respect those who did and do.

P.S. A friend suggested in e-mail that despite the propaganda from the Republicans and the corporate media, people voted for Obama not because they thought "they were voting for Eugene Debs, but rather because they were voting against obvious demagoguery." I see his point, but I still have the impression that most people who voted for Obama believed he was a lot more liberal than he actually is. Maybe not Eugene V. Debs, but I think most Americans would be vague about the difference anyhow. And Obama's poll numbers have taken a beating for his support for Bush's bailout, not for excessive concern about ordinary citizens.