Grand Illusion No More

Obama is very much a man of his time: weak or absent convictions, dispassion about even grievous wrongs, incapacity for moral outrage, with a ready assimilation of fads and fashions.
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Wednesday night Cinderella's gilded slipper comes off -- perhaps never to find its rightful bearer in our lifetime. By midnight it will be made painfully obvious that we have been gulled. Hopes for a renewed America given their coup de grace. It will grieve us far more than him. We know how much is lost. He will look forward to celebrating something that his White House shills will proclaim an historic accomplishment for an America going forward. With alchemic spin, and heavy infusions of money from Big Pharma et al, it might even allow him to win a second term in the Oval office. And that, sadly, we now know is what it is all about. Yes, a few lucky souls may avoid having their insurance terminated upon the discovery of a pre-existing condition. The big winners, though, will be the usual suspects who have the power to dictate our life conditions. The 'health' industry's lusty voices will join the choruses already echoing through the canyons of Wall Street: " Happy days are here again." Soon, they'll gang up to hawk bundled health insurance policies alongside the life insurance derivatives fresh on the market.

The rich, who were given a $1.7 tax gift by the Bushies, won't have to cough up a cent. The rest of us will be told to make do with the thin gruel of faded dreams and a handful of crumbs -- the eternal comfort of the deprived and exploited.

How did this happen? Barack Obama is the personification of generation 'X' -- that elusive cohort whose political identity and personal character is so hard to pin down. The record of pledges broken and favors curried with the nation's vested interests since January makes it starkly obvious that we are in for a rough -- and confusing -- era. Obama's failings have become glaring, as highlighted by his vacillating and spineless performance on health care reform. His headlong plunge into the Afghan quagmire and his cosseting of Wall Street in mishandling the financial crisis confirm the impression of a man whose convictions are too feeble to set fixed bearings for an effective presidency. That is to say, to govern on behalf of a serious reform agenda in accord with the times rather than to follow the course of least resistance marked out by established power centers.

The real Obama turns out to be very different from the Obama imagined by so many who projected their own hopes and needs onto a neophyte whose courage on issues never matched his audacity in pursuing personal ambition. That is as much the fault of naïve admirers as it is his. This concocted Messiah has neither message nor mission. A close look at what he says, resisting the dazzling rhetorical flourishes, should have revealed that early on. He is very much a man of his times: weak or absent convictions, dispassion about even grievous wrongs, incapacity for moral outrage, a ready assimilation of fads and fashions. And that man is someone who tips his hat to every form of authority he encounters; someone who believes deep down that the locus of American political sentiment lies well to the right of his own party's mainstream -- the territory occupied by the notorious Gang of Six; someone who imbibed the Reaganesque vision of America during his formative years in the 1980s; someone who has found in Ronald Reagan his inspired model -- as Obama himself said in a May 2008 interview.

What is to be done? Two things. First, no avoidance behavior. We are betrayed, we are beaten, we are bewildered. That's the inescapable reality. To have a large majority of Americans with us only makes the pill more bitter. Second, from now on be as ruthless and cold-blooded as they are -- the special interests, the 20 percent of Americans who form the phalanx of the radical Republican right, as the occupant of the White House who always puts himself first. The last is our main hope. Obama the self-serving egoist needs the votes of progressive and simply decent, responsible people to enjoy the personal gratification of being president for eight rather than only four years. He must be told in the bluntest way possible that if he acts as if Reagan's America is the true America, he will join the ignoble roll of one-termers and find himself nursing that delusion back in Chicago. In truth, he more likely would wind up as Chairman of Goldman Sachs or President of Harvard or a Supreme Court Justice. But he wants the White House. The one threat that can shake him is a credible threat that he won't get it unless he changes his ways. No appeals to conscience, no elaborate argumentation as to why reform at home and abroad best serves the national interest. Just simple electoral arithmetic.

To be credible, to break through the Obama conceit that he can talk his way out of anything and into anything, there must be anger, there must be righteousness, there must be stern demands that are unyielding. We know beyond any doubt that it is the only thing he responds to. Let's use that knowledge -- however unsavory it is.

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