Mark This Day!

One need not be a particularly insightful political analyst to realize that the wave that swept Barack Obama into the White House was broad but not very deep. His support consisted in no small part of first time voters, young and not so young, who were inspired by the dream and the vision and the infinite possibilities of greatness that the Obama candidacy represented. A huge part of the Obama constituency supported his articulated vision of hope and change, but they had not been supporting him for long.
There are very few people outside of Illinois who can count themselves as supporters of Barack Obama for more than three years. The members of the two+ year club wouldn’t fill too many football stadiums around the country either. The point being that President Obama has to manage the delicate and incredibly dexterous balancing act, trying to effect a progressive policy agenda in the most toxic political climate in the history of this republic. And he has to try to accomplish this with a foundation of support that is broad but not very deep.
Indeed, this shallow but broad constituency has, by reason of its relatively recent affiliation with President Obama, entered into this supportive relationship with the expectation that change meant magic. That same cultural/spiritual/political force that swept Barack Obama from the hinterlands of public consciousness into the white hot light of the global stage would also sweep away the opposition to universal health care, meaningful financial regulation and reform, creative and institutional educational reform and meaningful course correction of this country’s energy and environmental policies.
The fact that Barack Obama is not the “magic Negro” of Republican lore has been a disappointment to no small portion of the aforementioned broad but not very deep base of support. This irrational disappointment diminishes the momentum of support for the progressive initiatives and the vicious cycle continues. The opposition, the PailinPawlentyMcCainKylMcConnell cabal continues to attack at every possible and impossible opportunity and the broad and not very deep base of President Obama’s support wavers – at exactly the wrong time.
Clearly there is a need for the current Administration to more clearly articulate its vision. Clearly, there is a need for the current Administration to seize the time and to use its diminishing political advantage before it is no longer an advantage.
Just as clearly, however, it is time for the supporters of Barack Obama to make themselves known. I have no idea where the Tea Party denizens came from, but I do know that I was one of the millions of men and women who rang doorbells and contributed money to the election of President Obama. I do know that the millions of men and women who were in the vanguard of the greatest political transition in the history of these United States have ceded the high ground of public discourse to those who would demean and diminish the goals and ideals that propelled Barack Obama to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
And here is the final reason for action. The answer to Barack Obama will not be a modification of his progressive agenda. It will be a regressive agenda that will take its place. The Tea Party advocates, close relatives of Posse Comitatus and the Know Nothings and the Luddites, will seek to erase all traces of the Obama presidency. It will not be a matter of Bill Bennett instead of Arnie Duncan. It will be a matter of Dick Cheney instead of Joe Biden or Sarah Pailin instead of Hilary Clinton. It will be a matter of Michael Steele instead of Eric Holder and Alan Keyes instead of Sonia Sotomayor.
Make no mistake. The tide of opposition is relentless and without remorse. And as this column is being written the right wing of the right wing sees an advantage that was but an ephemeral dream a year ago. A dream because the right wing of the right wing would have seized the day without hesitation or pause or even a nodding acknowledgement of ‘bipartisanship’. The only ship that the right wing of the right wing sails is the one that is headed on a permanent course to perdition.
The good news is that there is still plenty of time between now and November 2nd. Plenty of time, that is, but only if the shallow but broad constituency that elected Barack Obama, and President Obama himself, seizes the time and the moment to begin to bring about the change that we can believe in.
The dithering about utilizing the Republican tool of budget reconciliation to pass the health care bill should have stopped being an issue before Halloween. The sideshows of location for the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohamed should have been resolved at the desk of political expediency without a second thought. The Wall Street bonuses, in the wake of the Wall Street bailout, should have been the bloody shirt that the Administration waved at every possible opportunity. Senator Bunning’s stonewall of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans should have been a daily talking point before and after the passage of that desperately needed enabling legislation.
The battle lines are clearly drawn. November 2, 2010 represents the temporal line in the sand in the arena of political discourse in this country. Between now and then those who declare themselves progressives need to transform vision into reality, beginning at the White House and ending with each and every one of us who support that vision. The energy and passion has brought the people of the United States so close to the threshold of “change we can believe in” has to be sustained if it is to become a reality. Mark this day. November 2, 2010. The right wing of the right wing has already done so.


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