Like many people here, I was there in the '60s and '70s, going to rallies in D.C. and elsewhere. Trying to obstruct the operations of local draft boards and more, some of which I won't talk about.
Like many people of my generation, "life" took over. A career doing what I loved doing and a family kept my mind on other things. My involvement in politics continued at a fairly low level - never missing an election, working for candidates both local and national. I remained a loyal Democrat, having been involved in elections since way before I could vote because my father, who was actively involved in the Democratic party.
I was very tentative in supporting Obama at first. I had been burned too often by Democratic politicians and disappointed by the weakening Democratic Party as a foil against the conservatives and Republicans. But eventually, I gave in and threw my support to Obama wholeheartedly. Aside from the prospect of having our first black president, he seemed to provide a chance - yes, a hope - that things could change for the best. He seemed like someone who could finally break the spell of conservatism.
There were some troubling signs, however. The first was his saying that Bush and Cheney were not bad people in The Audacity of Hope. After that, he talked about Reagan in positive terms. But I put that aside thinking it's just politics. That seems to be an excuse many continue to use for Obama's actions to this day.
After his election, it didn't take long for me to be disappointed, starting with the stimulus package and the give-away in advance to the Republicans in the form of tax cuts, which comprised about a third of the stimulus. When, despite that, the Republicans unanimously but one voted against it, it was clear Obama couldn't work with them. And when Mitch McConnell said his main goal was to make sure Obama was not reelected, it pretty much sealed it.
The next big disappointment was how he handled - or didn't handle - health care reform. His not-publicized meetings with AHIP and PHarMA were very disappointing and reminiscent of what Bush and Cheney did in letting industry draft legislation. The real kicker, however, was when he threw the public option overboard without a fight. That pretty much did it for me.
The fiasco of the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich and his cave-in to Republicans using extension of unemployment benefits - which Obama himself put on the table - was no surprise at that point. He didn't take a truly strong position on the tax cuts despite the fact that this was one of his signature campaign promises. His MO came clear to me at that point, namely that he would express his preference, but never really fight for anything.
And then there was the weak Wall Street reform, the appointment of a economic team that helped bring about economic disaster and were clearly Wall Streeters, not Main Streeters. The refusal to prosecute those who clearly played a part in the economic disaster as well as those who fraudulently got us into the Iraq War, the continued support for policies on spying and torture, escalation and extension of the Afghanistan War, and his refusal to put on those walking shoes for the Wisconsin Unions just added to the disappointment.
Throughout, Obama continued to try and win favor from Republicans, despite being spat on repeatedly. He precapitulated repeatedly and bent over backwards to accommodate them to no avail. I wondered if he was going for sainthood rather than a second term. I also thought he was weak, naive and a bad negotiator. But after seeing the same scenario replayed again and again, and knowing he isn't stupid and especially with a law degree he must know something about negotiating, realized something else must be going on.
My best explanation for Obama's behavior over the last 2+ years, is that he's using the Republicans as cover to advance a moderately conservative agenda. The beauty of this is that, in addition to moving things to the right, he can blame the Republicans for it. Of course, this conclusion also means that he pulled a bait and switch of historical proportions. In other words, my initial tentativeness at supporting him was justified. As I learned over the years, all these people but a rare few are just politician snake oil salesman whose main, if not only concern, is getting elected and reelected and who will use any expedient measure to do just that. Obama is no different.
So I'm back to where I started in a sense, not trusting the politicians as I learned in the '60s and '70s. A friend lent me Chris Hedges' book, The Death of the Liberal Class, which as depressing as it is, was an eye-reopener. Although not his focus, he put the Obama administration in context. Just more corporatists dancing to the tune that the moneyed class plays. Obama just another Democrat joining in the dance.
I'll write off my "love affair" with Obama to temporary insanity. I was taken in despite the fact that I knew from past experience not to trust these people who claim to have the masses' interests at heart. The "accomplishments" of Obama's tenure take on a very different look once the love affair is over. He provides some crumbs to the middle class and poor, but gives the cake to industry and the moneyed class. Some of those crumbs are important to some people (including myself), but the bigger picture tells the real story.
So, thank you, President Obama. You have put me back on track - one that is in collision or orthogonal to yours. You've re-radicalized me. I am re-energized. Now, I just need to find the right train to carry me from here.