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Me, I Disconnect from You December 7, 2010

Posted by monty in Uncategorized.
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I just don’t know what to think about Obama anymore.

I’ve been a political cynic as long as I can remember.  When my high school had a mock trial for the 1990 midterm elections, I wrote a lengthy diatribe on the ballot about how any election was simply a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils and it didn’t really matter what person was in office.  Apparently my handwriting was more recognizable than I thought, because later that day a history teacher accosted me in the hall, screaming about how I was “dead wrong.”  So much for the secret ballot.

My general indifference continued through the 1992 election and ’96 elections (I was pro-Clinton, but was I really going to be pro-Bush or -Dole?), and I didn’t really get my dander up until the Bush debacle in 2000.  Even then, it wasn’t so much an endorsement of the Democratic party on my part as much as it was disgust at the nimrod who had been swept into office on the back of the Supreme Court.

It took Obama to get me excited.  He was going to fight for universal health care, closing Guantanamo, and repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  He was smart and funny, he was young, and he seemed willing to go to the mat in defense of those things in which he believed.  I threw my weight behind him whole-heartedly, and, like many in this country in 2008, I believed.

But now?  Not so much.

It started with the administration’s handling of the health care bill – drawing out that debate torturously month after month; finally, after all that consternation, passing a candy-ass simulacrum of a real health care bill; and then, in a final insult, not campaigning hard behind it, weak as it was, to let the public know that there actually was some good stuff in it.  So now we have a health care bill that hardly anyone knows anything about and which the administration doesn’t seem interested in touting.  The perception seems to be that it’s a bill wreathed in shame, even though it’s at least a step in the right direction.  But the mishandling of the process and the shortcomings of the final product have to be laid at the feet of Obama and his party, who were unequivocally in control of Washington during the debate.

My disillusion got up a full head of steam as soon as I learned about Obama’s education policies.  I’ve discussed this issue in more detail elsewhere on this blog, so I won’t rehash the past now.  One thing I will say, though, is that the intervening months between that post and this one have only made me sadder and more frustrated.  Obama has doubled down (through Education Secretary Arne Duncan) on the idea that more testing is the key to a better education.  I’m reminded of the quote by the late, great James Moffett, which went something like this: “Frequently measuring your height doesn’t make you taller.”  As usual, teachers have been left almost entirely out of this conversation, so now we have the new Common Core Standards (developed by the very testing companies that stand to profit from them), a push to evaluate teachers based on the test scores of their students, and a misguided belief that if we just throw enough money at charter schools, everything will get better overnight.

(And, as a side note, you should all be glad I wasn’t blogging a couple months ago when NBC aired its propaganda hack job, “Education Nation,” which practically gave Davis Guggenheim’s anti-teacher, anti-public school puff piece Waiting for “Superman” a blow job on national television.  I was not a happy fella that week.)

And now there’s this deal with the taxes, adding more to the deficit and lining the pockets of the people who got us into this fiduciary mess in the first place, all in the name of playing nice with a political party that’s going to tar and feather Obama no matter what he does.  What – did he really think that he was going to wipe the slate clean with Boehner and crew by extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich?  If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that trying to “compromise” with the GOP is a zero-sum game.  If Obama cured cancer, they’d lambaste him as a Socialist for using tax dollars to do so.  Extending the tax cuts for the rich was a craven thing to do – and he can deny this all he wants – all in the name of political expedience.

I’m mad at the Republicans too, don’t get me wrong.  But in a way I’m less angry with them because I’ve come to expect them to obstruct and, as the party of old rich white dudes, I can’t fault them for playing to their base.  I only wish Obama had the courage to do the same.  Because, see, right now he doesn’t need the Republicans to defeat him.  The Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, are the most self-defeating bunch of ninnies I’ve ever seen.  Instead of taking the fight to the Republicans and drawing a line in the sand about their beliefs, they bow and scrape and kowtow as though it’s going to make any difference.  The result is twofold, with neither half being any good.  They give the Republicans more or less exactly what they want, and in the process, the very people who trusted Obama, who believed in him, who voted for him, are being told that their faith was misplaced.

I know – and so, likely, does Obama – that I don’t have a real choice here.  It’s not as though I’m going to vote for the Republicans in 2012.  And it’s not as though a vote for a third party candidate amounts to anything except a feeling of smug superiority as I exit the voting booth.  So it’s either not vote at all, or vote for the guy who’s not as bad as the crazy bitch from Alaska, the rich Mormon, the fat Bible thumper, or the disgraced lunatic.  It’s not a choice at all, but it’s what we’re going to be faced with in a couple years, and it’s unbelievably disheartening to see how quickly I’ve become cynical again.

Thanks, Obama.  Bang-up job you’re doing.

*****

Current listening:

Rjd2 – Since We Last Spoke (2004)

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Comments»

1. Paul Rogers - December 8, 2010

The cynicism seems unproductive to me, understandable though. What I believed in was change, the possibility and necessity of it. Where are the models of change that have produced results? Check out Ashoka.org. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and writing Rob.

rcm - December 8, 2010

Oh, there’s no doubt it’s unproductive, Paul, and I’m really wrestling with this defeatist attitude. I try to look at some of the other things he’s accomplished, but those always seem to pale in comparison with the bigger opportunities he’s squandered.

I’ll have to bend your ear sometime. I’m Co-Directing my first Summer Institute in 2011 and would love to hear what you’ve done in your first few years.


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