Monday, November 5, 2012

My Two Cents

Hope and Change
I'm voting tomorrow for the same guy I voted for four years ago, but with little of the hope and yes--joy--I felt back then. Obama has been a crushing disappointment to me. On Africa, my single issue topic, he has not simply been absent, as several commentators have argued. He has been worse. He has inaugurated a host of militaristic policies in Africa driven by our millenarian wars on drugs and terror. He has welcomed the same tyrannical and bloody kleptocrats to the White House as his predecessors. And while he talked a good game early on about the importance of building civil society and good institutions, he has done nothing to follow up on those words. Nothing.

On the wider stage, he has enshrined a state of more or less constant war against Eastasia--I mean the Muslim world--that normalizes atrocities against the darker-skinned abroad and a permanent abridgment of their our civil liberties at home. He has barely uttered the words "global warming," though he must know that posterity is likely to judge him more harshly for that than any number of sins of commission. On the domestic front he has rescued capitalism for the capitalists (Roosevelt famously rescued it from the capitalists), but done nothing to reverse--or even slow--the entrenchment of our emerging financier-based plutocracy. Dodd-Frank's only real effect will be to enrich a new generation of Wall Street lawyers. He has imprisoned and deported more undocumented people than all previous presidents combined. He has taken every opportunity to invigorate rather than temper the war on drugs. He has pursued quasi-market educational policies based on the lamentably well-philanthrophized notion that testing well is dispositive for learning. He has ignored labor.

His one significant accomplishment is health care: it is impossible to gainsay that, if only because nearly every president since WW II has tried and failed to institute some sort of universal coverage. That it was the worst of the options, that it does little to bend the cost curve, that it came at the cost of bribing off virtually every stakeholder except the sick and those who may someday become sick: Well, perhaps this was the price that needed paying. Or perhaps not: the other options were never tried. In any case, that one achievement isn't nearly enough to make up for him having squandered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that his election represented. He came in facing the gravest set of problems any president has confronted since Roosevelt; in his biography and rhetoric Obama promised as soaring a set of responses. The achievements he has delivered have been at best Clintonian in their scale and imagination.

But the other guy's worse. And I live in Virginia, where votes count.

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