Incremental Change I Can Believe In

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As the nation sits on the precipice of default and worldwide Depression, my frustration with progressives has turned from annoyance to blind rage.  The delusional fantasy that Barack Obama can wave a magic wand, part the Red Sea, and create progressive change with the stroke of a pen, just won’t die.  And it frustrates the hell out of me.  I understand the mindset intimately because I was there.  This presidency is a unique moment in American history and it has fueled the idealism of the American people. That’s a good thing.  However, it has also unleashed a tsunami of unrealistic expectations.  

Our system of government is designed to frustrate reform and change, especially progressive change. Whatever change we manage to get is ALWAYS incremental and a foundation that can be built upon. I thought that was widely understood.  I was wrong.

Anybody who hasn’t been under a rock for the last few weeks understands that there is no reasoning with the Republicans on Capitol Hill or anywhere else.  David Brooks said it best:

… the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative. The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

…If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

Given the ruinous catastrophe that the country faces, I find it maddening that some progressives think that the president is going to be able to achieve anything worthwhile as long as Republicans control the House of Representatives.  Didn’t we learn this lesson 16 years ago when Bill Clinton was president? After Clinton’s re-election the GOP doubled down on the crazy.  Bill Clinton was immensely flattered to be considered the first black president and the Republicans resolved that any white male that would cop to that should be treated like a nigger. That’s what the humiliation of impeachment was ultimately about and they haven’t changed. The thin veneer of solidarity with African Americans and other people of color displayed by our party leaders renders the Right-Wing constitutionally incapable of accepting any Democratic President’s legitimacy.

Thirteen years later, the president who saved us from Depression, secured comprehensive health reform, and reversed DADT without embarrassing his wife, his family, and the nation with sordid details of oval office fellatio, can’t seem to do anything right for the people who vigorously defended the philanderer-in-chief who got all of that progressive policy wrong in addition to weakening the social safety net and deregulating the banks that speculated us into the current predicament.  In the African American community, there is an aphorism that we are taught as children: We have to be twice as good to get half as much.  True to form, Barack Obama is twice as good as Bill Clinton ever was and doesn’t even get half the credit.

I’m tired of the cacophony of criticism from the firebagger caucus that President Obama is somehow defective.  He’s the most effective president on domestic policy since LBJ. Unlike Charlie Sheen, Barack Obama IS winning, which I think is the realization fueling the Republican drive to blow up the economy and his presidency so they can play blame-a-nigga games during the 2012 Presidential election.

The fact that firebaggers refuse to acknowledge the latent racism behind Republican machinations blocking a raise in the debt ceiling reveals that Republicans are not the only ones with a race problem they need to own up to. The need for Barack Obama to be perfection personified before some progressives can trust and applaud his leadership is delusional at best.  At worst it is racist and it is time we had an adult conversation about that. His election has not exorcised the demon of racism in this country and relieves no one of their moral obligation to continue supporting fairness and equal opportunity.

If President Obama has a failing, it is that he refuses to acknowledge that truth and the racism behind the animus he faces from the Republicans.  Whatever.  I’ll support him regardless because nobody in my lifetime has demonstrated that they’re more worthy of being President.

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28 thoughts on “Incremental Change I Can Believe In

  1. I am going to have to disagree with you here. I’m not going to say that any of the other politicians on the hill are any better than Obama. In general I distrust all politicians. But I did vote for Obama. I want to see him do great things for this country.

    The thing that is really bothering me is this current debt ceiling “crisis” that has arose. Read the plan that they are actually talking about and that Obama is supporting. It proposed all kinds of program cuts for the elderly and poor. It proposes that tax cuts that help all classes (with a majority of them being poor and middle class) be ended. It proposes tax CUTS for the wealthy and big corporations-who haven’t created jobs! It proposes a tax holiday for big corporations so that they can move their dollars back to the US at a negligible tax rate. The last time the US gave big corporations a tax holiday like this, we just lost all that tax revenue. Those corporations didn’t create jobs and in many cases cut jobs!

    Look, I understand that we’re going to have to cut spending. But it seems VERY unfair that all the social programs get cut and the wealthy don’t have to sacrifice anything. If Obama were going to the mat, fighting for the everyday American, I’d back him all the way. But seeing what I’m seeing right now, I have some serious concerns. Why doesn’t he take this to the American people and tell everyone the truth of what the Republicans are trying to push through? Americans would be pissed if he did and would support him in doing what was right for the country. Why is he backing this VERY Republican plan? I don’t get it.

    I’m not trying to bash the President. I’m just saying read what he is supporting. It’s disappointing. I never expected him to be the great savior. But damn, it’d be nice if he was fighting for us on this. It feels like he’s selling us out. Just my two cents.

  2. I have no idea what will ultimately happen, but from where I sit it doesn’t look like there will be any deal. Boehner is more interested in staying King of the Hill than he is in averting global Depression. If they do reach a compromise, I’ll evaluate it on the merits. Until then, I will continue giving the President the benefit of the doubt. The Republicans are more than capable of destroying my future without any helping hand from the president. Thank you for commenting. You made my day. Come again.

  3. TripLBee

    Skep,

    You’ve been gone a long time. Did something happen to you while you were gone, or did someone co-opt your blog? I ask this because you’ve got it all wrong. Well, not all wrong. Certainly some on the left don’t understand that there are three branches of government and that Obama can’t part the Red Sea. True. (Paging Prof. West…Paging Tavis Smiley.)

    But Obama owned both chambers of Congress for two years, and now owns one of them, and acts as if he’s in the minority. While it is true that the GOP has officially lost its collective mind, that makes it even more essential for Obama to play hard ball. Because these boys don’t understand compromise and other diplomatic niceties. They understand raw power….something to which Obama has access but refuses to use.

    In the current negotiations, he has boxed himself in by caving in to nearly every demand the GOP has made. Last year this time, the GOP was refusing to extend unemployment benefits unless Obama extended the tax cuts for millionaires. Obama had a golden opportunity to tell the Republicans to go fuck themselves. He could have allowed both the tax cuts and unemployment benefits to lapse, then used his bully pulpit to ask the Republicans how they could justify cutting off unemployed Americans in order to save tax cuts for millionaires. Instead he rolled over like a whipped dog, giving them all they wanted and getting very little in return.

    So he has fed a beast that will never be satiated, and now we face a very real catastrophe. This has to be a time when he draws a line in the sand. I mean this guy is seriously talking about cutting Social Security benefits. Social Security for God’s sake…you know, the program the drew in one hundred billion dollars more than it spent last year and is projected to run a surplus for the next 27 years.

    YOu see Skep, you can’t compromise on things like this. This is an example of GOP ideology that is totally disconnected to the debt and the debt ceiling. These boys want to take down the whole house. Instead of fighting them, Obama is giving them an assist.

    • So it’s the president’s fault that the American people voted in these crazy people he has no choice but to deal with? The solution is grandstanding for progressive values with more aplomb even though the terrorists are threatening Depression? THEY DON’T WANT A DEAL, TripLBee.

      He has to get people to see that because the corporate media has abdicated all responsibility to tell this story with any objectivity. He had only one option: negotiate in good faith knowing full well that they would not. We’re going over a cliff and he is now he’s attempting to explain it to the American people in a way that cannot be ignored. Hopefully it will avert disaster by causing an epic firestorm. However, I seriously doubt anything will save us now. Gawd Help us.

      • Skep,

        I just happened upon your blog and thought I’d leave a message. In regards to Obama, I’m going to have to agree with TripL, here. Yes, the Republicans are idiots. And generally they are crooks. But when you’re playing ball with asshats like that, you have to sack up and play hardball. He’s not doing that, and that’s why so many of us are disappointed.

        I’d like to see Obama call a damn press conference and do some plain speaking to the American people. He needs to read and explain the Republican plan in terms Joe blow up the street can understand. Think about it like this:

        “Good afternoon, America. The plan the Republicans want to pass would cut medicare and social security severely. That means that many of the elderly that currently draw that check will suddenly not be able to afford rent or medicine. If this happens, Grandma could be living back home with you! Meanwhile, rich bitch up the street is going to buy herself a new ivory backscratcher with her tax cuts and to hell with jobs.”

        I’m sure President Obama could finesse that a bit, but you get the picture. All the President would have to do is cut the rhetoric bullshit down and talk plainly in terms and consequences Nancy Sue Schoolteacher can understand.

        It’s time for the President to take the gloves off. Just saying.

      • TripLBee

        Skep,

        Long before the 112th Congress was seated, I’ve stated that the GOP is a confederation of white supremacists, apocalyptic Christians, and corporate oligarchs. They are extremists and they are utterly crazy and dangerous. Because they are so dangerous—and have been since at least the rise of Reagan and probably going back to Goldwater—I always vote straight Dem.

        But Obama is using a Democratic playbook that has utterly screwed this country for the past 30 or 40 years: let the GOP set the terms of the debate, meet them halfway even as the goal posts move further and further to the right and the masses of AMericans get screwed. The playbook needs to change. Obama and his party need to write a script for themselves instead of merely responding to the insanity of the GOP. They had an opportunity to do this after the 2008 elections when they ran everything, but they didn’t. As is typical of their party, they were timid and weak.

        The Democrats got wiped out in 2010 for many reasons. But it happened partly because they refused to use the populist mantle upon which they, and specifically Obama, were elected. They saved the banks, which was important and necessary, but they didn’t impose and new constraints on them….a missed opportunity that they cannot re-create. They passed the Reinvestement Act, but it was weak and didn’t create nearly as many jobs as it should have…it was weak because they were afraid of the response from Fox News and the GOP…who called it Socialist/Marxist anyway. So they may as well have passed better legislation so that more jobs were created since the right was going to sling the same arrows anyway. Ditto for health care reform legislation which is weak and which essentially doesn’t kick in until 2014 (and if the Dems lose in 2012 none of the reforms will ever be enacted because the GOP will over turn it….another missed opportunity…if they’d passed a public option that kicked in earlier they could have dared a GOP majority to overturn it and then deal with an enraged constituency).

        So not only has Obama boxed himself in with weak negotiating tactics, he is making the GOP’s vulnerabilities his own. The GOP in Wisconsin is going to see their governor and several of their state legislatures recalled because of their massive overreach. A House seat in upstate NY that has been GOP for 50 years just went to a Dem, because the REpublican candidate called for cuts in Medicare. So you know what Obama is going to do this week? He is going to cut Medicare and Social Security…the two issues that were going to get him re-elected. And now that he will be unable to use those issues against the GOP. And if they are smart enough to nominate a halfway reasonable candidate (Romney, Huntsman, etc), they will beat Obama and win the Senate. This is where Obama’s weakness and naivete about who he is dealing with will get him and our poor country.

  4. renee

    I am still trying to figure out where was all this fiscal responsibility the seven times that President Bush asked congress to raise the debt ceiling…and they complied!!!!!! It is “blame a Ni@@a games….I am furious with these a$$wipes!!! excuse my language, everyone.

    Thanks

  5. rikyrah

    thank you, SB

    MISSED YOU

    and you are on point, as always.

    1. Bill Clinton LEFT THIS COUNTRY WITH A SURPLUS
    2. The Deficit is made up of 4 things:
    a) Iraq War
    b) Afghanistan War
    c) Medicare, Part D
    d) Bush Tax Cuts [if you want to twist the knife in, point out, that this was the first time in American history that tax cuts were done during WARTIME]

    that’s the beginning, middle and end of the story. and, it happens to be the truth, which never hurts.

  6. rikyrah

    it’s Friday Night, and Orange Julius is so weak a Speaker that he hasn’t gotten the votes yet.

    this is insane.

  7. I saw Obama’s speech. It was WEAK. It’s like he’s afraid to fire back at the Republicans! WTF is that about?

    Beyond the fact that this debt ceiling BS is manufactured drama created by the Republicans so that they can take by blackmail what they couldn’t gain at the ballot box, America wouldn’t go into a tailspin if the President stood firm and allowed August 2nd to come and go by.

    What he should have said at the press conference was this:

    “The debt ceiling and the deficit are two separate conversations. The debt ceiling needs to be raised now to pay for debts run up by the Republican Party and they refuse to vote to do it. Those debts are the Bush tax cuts, the wars, Medicare prescription plan, and Tarp. If the Republican Party would like to raise the debt ceiling to pay for the debt they ran up, we can do that. But what is not on the table is spending cuts without raising revenue via closing tax loopholes for the rich and ending the Bush tax cuts.

    That’s all I have to say about the matter. If you put a ridiculous plan before me, I’ll veto it. And what comes after that will be on your head.”

    And then he needs to refuse all the bullshit meetings after that, be silent, and make the Republicans sweat. This is a bullshit game of chicken, that’s all. And Barack has a shitty bluff.

    • TripLBee

      Actually, he has been silent the past couple of days and the Republicans are definitely sweating. They are at war with each other and the polls suggest that they will take a huge hit if we default on our debt.

  8. Burroughston Broch

    It is good to see you back, Skeptical Brotha.

    I cannot agree with your statement that the Republicans are the root of all evil. The Democrats are equally to blame – remember that it has been 821 days since the US Senate last passed a budget. During most of these 821 days the Democrats held a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, held the House majority, and held the White House. There is more than enough blame for all involved.

    And how can you say with a straight face that, “He’s the most effective president on domestic policy since LBJ” when he can’t get a budget passed in over two years?

    Glad that you are back and hope that you are well.

  9. Nocturnal

    Obama himself put Medicare and Social Security on the table. This whole debt ceiling crisis was performance art. Hes going to give George Bush and Herbert Hoover some competition in the worst president ever category. Do you really think he gives a shit about progressive voters. His health insurance plan put billions in the pockets of insurance companies. He negotiated away single payer at secret meetings with Big Pharma before the debate even began. Where have you been? His negotiation skills are so pathetic it has to be kabuki.

  10. I just have to say….I called it. All spending cuts and no revenue increases from the rich or the corporations.

    Even Obama’s most ardent supporters in the African American caucus are pissed at him.

    It’s just unbelievable. I sincerely think this is worse than if I’d voted for McCain. It’s like we’ve entered the twilight zone.

    • TripLBee

      Come down off the ledge. McCain would not have extended TARP and the US banking sector would have collapsed, spiraling us into a full blown economic depression. He would not have sent Sotomayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court. He would have sent more people like Roberts and Alito—an unfathomable disaster. He would not be withdrawing troops in Iraq. He’d be adding them. As bad as Obama’s health reform legislation was, it has a few good provisions. None of that would have happened under a McCain-Palin presidency.

      You won’t find me defending Pres. Obama. But neither will you find me saying that he’s no different than a Republican. He is…There is no comparison. None.

  11. I’m still impressed by Obama. I’m impressed that he froze the pay of federal workers before the holidays last year, ostensibly to help reduce the deficit by a few pennies, then turned around and gave a fat Christmas present to Daddy Warbucks by extending the Bush tax cuts for 2 more years, which assured the debt crisis would continue and could be used as an excuse by the Republicans to cut apart the social safety net. No Republican president would ever dare shit on their base like that. Yes, that was impressive!

    More recently, I was hoping against hope that Obama would go the 14th Amendment route rather than assuring the continued implosion of the middle class, and giving the Republicans a deal that pretty much assured the tanking of the economy. That took some guts, and some negotiating skill in the manner of Neville Chamberlain with Hitler in 1938. Peace and prosperity in our time!

    And now, instead of a jobs bill, we are gonna get a super-Congress committee, a Catfood Commission on steroids, stocked with the Norquist crowd of no-revenue Republicans. Along with one Max Baucus, last seen turning the health care bill into a pork barrel project for his campaign sponsors. How long before social security gets sold off as another Wall Street ponzi scheme? Not long!

    But we have to pay for the wars somehow. Looks like it comes out of the hides of old folks and the working poor.

  12. Harl Thrombey

    Why has President Obama kept the very same Goldman-Sachs economic team as George Bush? Why does President Obama enthusiastically embrace the insane economic concepts that depend on eternal expansion?

    Why has President Obama directed (or allowed) the Dept of Justice to defend Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in Court against all sorts of charges including war crimes?

    As the DOMA has shown, President Obama does NOT have his hands tied. His hands are only tied when he is scared, or trying pointlessly to be “mainstream”. And isn’t this the very same problem Democrats have always had?

    They never fight the Republican narrative.

    Example: Republicans always claim to be “tough on crime”. Democrats almost NEVER expose how Republicans are NOT tough on crime. Instead they just say “we’re tough too”.

    Or how, to the detriment of everyone in the nation except Insurance Company board members…. Obama caved away from any concept of “Medicare for all” and instituted a strange concept of forcing people to buy a private product (as if poor people even have the money to do so, the future “exchanges” not withstanding). The whole issue is now tied up in federal Appeals court as you know.

    It’s sad.

    He really could be a true leader, but like Clinton, and like Carter, and like 99% of Congressional Democrats, he caves into the Republican narrative far too often.

    All that being said, President Obama is still infinitely better than George Bush, John McCain, John Edwards, et al.

    • Burroughston Broch

      The President is running for re-election and that is priority 1; everything else is secondary. He might be a true leader if he didn’t care about re-election.

      He is no different than Clinton and Carter who swallowed their principles in their quest for a second term.

      He will sacrifice anything and anyone who gets in his way. It’s not about the country and his countrymen – it’s all about him.

  13. I’m not sure he has a re-election strategy. I won’t be voting for him this time.

    Did you guys see the video where prominent members of the black caucus were talking to their constituents and basically said, “We’ve left the President alone because we thought that’s what our constituents wanted.” There were people in the audience going, “Take him on! Don’t leave him alone!”

    I’m not even sure what to say. I thought we were going to have change in this nation when Obama was elected. But I just don’t see it. Where is the change? I understand he inherited a craptacular economy, but he’s not fought for us. It’s worse now. And it shouldn’t be.

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