A number of years ago I went on a trip to France for 2 weeks. I planned well in advance, and took 2 semesters of conversational French in the evenings so that I wouldn’t have to rely completely on my traveling companions to read menus and order meals, ask for directions, and pay for train tickets. I didn’t kid myself that I was fluent, but every once in a while it was kind of fun to overhear a conversation on the Metro or on the street and be able to know that it was about work or relationships, etc., and to recognize much of the vocabulary. But ultimately the conversation would grow more intense, or the people would start talking very fast, and soon I was lost.
I kinda feel like that listening to our politicians right now.
To begin with, I don’t even understand how we got to where we are today. In 2008 we elected a President who ran on a primarily progressive Democratic platform. He won and the Democrats had the not only the White House, but the majority in the House and the Senate. Almost immediately we saw President Obama shirk away from the incredible power he had before him. Yes, the Tea Party began to raise its voice, but rather than stand tall for what he said he believed in, Democratic President Obama began negotiating with people who were on the fringe of the Republican Party. People who from the start were calling for a dismantling of our society’s safety net of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and Unemployment — even as the economy grew worse in 2008 and 2009.
People who still believe in the second coming of Barack Obama will no doubt comment here with a long list of “things he has done.” Save it, sister. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? It’s still in effect. DOMA? still on the books. Lilly Ledbetter? The Democratic led Congress passed the Act and he signed it — isn’t that what we elected him to do? Let me make clear that I’m not about to re-hash the nightmare that was Primary 2008. No one can really say if things would be different if Hillary Clinton were in the White House, and it’s a waste of time and energy to debate that idea. In fact, it’s a waste of time to say Obama needs to be like FDR or like anyone else. He needs to be like Barack Obama, Democratic candidate for President 2008. He needs to stand up to the Republican Party, to the Wall Street lobby, and to the advisors who surround him.
I heard President Obama speak a few weeks ago when he came to my University campus. He was charming, articulate, upbeat, obviously intelligent. He has a lot of potential, really. But he popped out of the White House to host a Town Hall Meeting, and expected us all to ask questions about the deficit. Really? Everyone I know who went to the event had questions — and none of them were about the deficit. Unemployment, Social Security, single payer health plans (oh, yeah, what ever happened to that idea, anyway?), Pell grants — these were the things Americans wanted to ask him about, but he didn’t seem to understand. He kept talking about the debt ceiling needing to be raised, while we all wondered why he extended the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy and wasn’t demanding Congress look at other opportunities for raising revenue.
It’s like he was speaking French or something.