WAMC APRIL 30, 2009
Let me see if I have got this right, having completed his first hundred
days we’re supposed to compare Barack Obama to…
Jee this is confusing, in the early days it was Abraham Lincoln with his
team of rivals but that comparison flowed into FDR and his New Deal
given how bad the economy was going as Obama entered office. But
after a while the pundits changed their minds again. So, now, we were
told the most apt comparison is Ronald Reagan. Obama we’ve heard is
emerging as mirror image of the transformative Reagan who told us that government was the problem not the solution.
But the way I see it, Lincoln albeit an extraordinary hero was after all
trying to preserve the status quo — struggling to stitch the union, the
American Union back together after the succession of the southern state, an essentially conservative effort to retain the America we had long known even if the revolutionary emancipation emerged out of those efforts.
Though even black emancipation impressive as it was only confirmed
the theoretical equality this nation was founded on. And FDR, however
impressive his accomplishments eventually were hardly, campaigned on
the sort of revolutionary transformation of the role of government his
administration eventually brought about. In fact FDR even initially
opposed government insurance for bank depositors. While his primary
goal was as well essentially conservative — operating within a
worldwide depression—in an environment where far too many were
turning to the attractions of fascism and communism FDR forged a
program designed to save democratic capitalism from its own worst
features. In a sense working to smooth off unregulated capitalism’s rough edges with programs from social security to the new government sponsored jobs.
As for the much admired Reagan, what exactly did he accomplish? I
mean it was Gorbachev’s efforts to reform the unreformable, the
dictatorial and economically disastrous Soviet Command Economy that
brought down the USSR. Not Reagan’s much heralded economic
pressure. Why Ronald Reagan couldn’t even accomplish his now long
forgotten campaign goal of getting rid of the Department of Education.
But Barack Obama campaigned on a revolutionary agenda. He called for a generational transformation of our entire energy system — a
revolutionary agenda that impacts on every aspect of our lives while
promising a revolutionary national health care system that actually
delivers health care for individual Americans at an affordable price —
pushing the nation forward into the 21st century, not merely trying to
keep the union intact or capitalism viable.
And the American people elected Obama on that very public platform.
Oh sure, maybe they were a bit distracted by their hatred of George and company — too distracted by the historic symbolism of Obama’s skin tones to notice he was a real intellectual, of the sort Americans usually disdain. Yes a real intellectual committed to transforming the county in absolutely fundamental ways. But the fact is, that America made a choice last fall, and it was on more than an individual to lead this nation but a leader committed to bringing about revolutionary change.
And given that reality it seems time not to judge Obama’s first hundred
days. But America’s first hundred days. To ask ourselves, has America
done enough to support our president in the revolutionary agenda we
hired him to take on? Have we Americans been supportive enough
employers. After all, it is right now, this very week that congress has
taken up the new energy bill—which has the possibility of transforming
our entire future for both good or ill.
And it is right now that the congress is working on the new health care bill which may very well impact Americans every day of their future lives. Sure, it’s easy enough to say, as he likes to that that Obama has successfully paid the down payment on that new America we hired him to build. But we, each of us has to then ask ourselves. How have we have done in this our first hundred days to support our agenda of a new America?