I never thought Obama was the messiah.
Sure, the posters moved me. So did his words, his slogans, that music video and all the rest of the propaganda that came with his movement. But despite my enthusiasm, I did not expect Barack to fix all of our problems. I, like many, knew that there would be pitfalls and compromises with those who opposed his policies. And I agreed with most of those policies, but that’s not why I supported him in the first place. After all, Clinton ran on a similar platform.
I supported Obama — believed in him — because I thought that we had finally found an unapologetic and ambitious advocate for our vision. For years I had seen the Republicans coalesce around what I saw as misguided stances while the Democrats lacked the spine to oppose those stances or push through an agenda of their own. Obama seemed different. For once, here was someone who looked like he could stand up for his ideals, who could face his opposition and stay true to his vision for the country. And during his first eighteen months in office, for the most part, Obama was that person — passing healthcare reform, financial reform and the stimulus in the face of the Tea Party and looming electoral defeat in the midterms.
But now it seems as if he has abandoned those ideals. Paul Krugman, in a brilliant column, laments how–by extending Bush’s tax cuts–Obama has compromised with the Republicans not just on policy but on his vision for the country. He could have stopped the tax cuts with his huge Democratic congressional majority, ending a financial policy that is not only ineffective but also unjust. He could have fought to the finish, opposing the Republicans even as the tax cuts were extended.
And that’s why I’ve lost faith in President Obama. I’m by no means an expert on economic policy and I favor bipartisanship and compromise, but I want a president who has faith in his ideals and who’s not afraid to say what’s right and what’s wrong. I want a president who will declare, even as he faces defeat, that we will hurt the United States if we benefit the rich during an economic recovery. I want a president who will inspire his followers and his nation by presenting, defending and advocating a vision that is best for the country, though it may not be politically expedient. But Obama, it seems, has chosen expedience over what is right — a bad sign as we approach an era of Republican majority.
Those of us who support progressive policy will not get anywhere unless we demonstrate the conviction that our vision is right for the country. Obama should have demonstrated that conviction, but he has not, and now we’re stuck with an unprincipled president, a contrarian Congress and a failed tax policy.