It’s taken a long, long, time, but I think I finally grasp just what the whole Obama “hope and change” thing is all about.
The people want change, and they hope that Obama can bring it.
They have to hope, because they don’t have a hell of a lot else to base that on.
Obama has, over his career, held several positions of authority and influence. And in each case, he has followed the same pattern — he plays it safe, keeping himself secure and kept his viability for the next level on the ladder.
He spent several years as a “community organizer.” Well, as the saying goes, Jesus and Adolf Hitler were community organizers, Pilate and FDR were governors. It’s all in what you do with those positions. Obama? Hard-pressed to see just what the hell he did in them.
Obama spent several years as a community organizer, and I’m not quite sure what he did during tha time. I feel fairly safe in saying, though, that it was probably not much of any great, lasting import, as it would be touted on his list of very thin accomplishments.
In the Illinois State Senate, Obama had a chance to effect change. One measure he championed — over a union’s protests, no less — was a requirement that all police interrogations involving a capital murder case be videotaped. The police union fought that, but it passed anyway — and good for Obama. It’s a simple, common-sense measure that surprises the hell out of me when I found out it wasn’t already established practice.
In a host of other issues, though, Obama did his level best to avoid controversy. His predilection for voting “present” is legendary, a privilege he evoked well over a hundred times during his tenure in the Illinois State Senate.
Now, there are times when such a vote is appropriate. The best example I can think of is when the legislator has a personal stake in the outcome, and voting could be considered an act of self -interest. For example, Senator Joe Biden voting for a credit-card-regulation bill when the backers of that measure have paid his son heftily to lobby for the bill’s passage.
Whoops, bad example. Biden did just that. Lemme think of another one…
Anyway, by voting “present” on controversial issues, Obama got to say “I’m here, I’m paying attention, keep paying me” without actually rendering any service to his constituents. And that is a great disservice to the people who elected him — he is, in essence, disenfranchising those people. They are entitled to express their views, to have their voice heard, through their duly elected representative — and Obama simply refused to be that voice.
It’s been widely noted that Chicago has some of the most corrupt politics in the nation. (A lot of people like to say “the most corrupt,” but I would never dream of slighting the fine folks of Louisiana.) Obama literally met face to face with these vermin, on a practically daily basis, yet never once showed the slightest interest in backing any kind of meaningful reforms or taking stands against the worst of them.
Next, we have Obama’s seven years on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, four of them as head of the board. This group’s stated goal was to improve the Chicago schools. Over its lifespan, the Challenge funneled over $100 million dollars into various programs and projects and initiatives — and in the end, showed virtually no gains for all its efforts.
In the process, Obama was involved in deciding how that money would be apportioned out. Among the many choices the Project made was to give long-time Marxist, CAC member (and longtime crony of CAC founder Bill Ayers) Mike Klonsky got $175,000 for his “Small Schools Workshops” — but the Algebra Project got nothing.
So here again Obama was in a position to bring about real change, and instead he achieved nothing — except another check-mark on his resume’.
So, with all this on his record (or, more accurately, not on his record), why do people look to Obama to bring about some kind of great change?
Well, one theory I have is that they are tremendous believers in the theory that Obama’s been saving up all his energy and resources for reforming for when he’s president. He’s hoarded all his efforts and carefully conserved it mightily, not letting a single bit of it sneak out before he can properly unleash it.
It’s a stupid theory, but it’s the only one that seems to fit: they Hope that he will finally, after all these skipped opportunities, bring about Change. That this lifelong embodiment of “go along to get along” will, once he achieves his ultimate goal, rip off his mask and reveal himself as the Great Reformer.
Nice hope. But it strikes me as a bad idea. “Hope” seems about as good a voting strategy as it is a birth control method. Especially when it’s hope that is utterly ungrounded in anything resembling reality.
When it comes to contraception, years ago I carefully studied all the available choices and made a very studied and deliberate decision. “Hope” will never enter into the issue for me (except in the area of finding myself in situations where such matters are more than abstract). And when it comes to voting, I keep hope handy, but I also back it up with careful consideration and looking at the histories of the candidates and where they stand on the issues that matter most to me.
I guess I’m just funny that way.