I was excited about casting my vote in 2008 for Barack Obama. I bought into the message of hope. After eight years of a political atmosphere that made me exceedingly sad to be an American (for the first time in my life), he appeared like a light at the end of a very sooty, smoke-filled tunnel.
Alas… I am worried at the lack of real leadership from our President. I still respect him, but I no longer believe in him. It hurts to admit that. But the promise of his Presidency was so compelling. Tone down the rhetoric. Tone down the polarization. Champion the vulnerable.Bring our troops home and repair our reputation across the globe.
But, no… somewhere over the last two years compromise gave way to something damaging – political necessity. For some reason, this administration seemed to begin planning for 2012 right from day one. Compromise is admirable, but trading in your principles for political gain is reprehensible and is at the heart of what really ails our nation.
Health Care Reform could have been such a game-changer, but instead became a muddled sell-out to insurance companies and the radical Right. At the time, I thought, “Well, it’s a first step.” But it isn’t. Opponents got exactly what they wanted – a bloated mess that makes an exceedingly easy target.
Guantanamo stayed a prison full of people whose civil rights were violated daily just by being held without charges. We are still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, violence in Libya is met with more violence… from us.
And promises to help out our most vulnerable and the working class all fell by the wayside. Instead, corporations got bailouts (some of which worked well so far, I will admit) and money was handed out to the very people who concocted this financial mess (failed miserably). Meanwhile, a full-out assault on the working class has occurred with almost no opposition from the Administration.
The final straw for me, the act which finally signalled the break between the hope and the reality, was President Obama’s choice of GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt as the head of his Advisory Board on Job Creation. It was a purely cynical and political move that made no logical sense. Immelt oversees a company that not only paid NO corporate tax last year, but actually received a tax rebate. And, Immelt had his compensation package doubled. Meanwhile, GE is cutting jobs. Yes… cutting… jobs… The man who President Obama wants to head up job creation is an expert at NOT creating them.
The last time I truly felt good about a vote I cast was when I voted for Ralph Nader. It made a difference because in Minnesota, the Green Party received enough votes to actually receive funding like the Democrats and Republicans received. I even had the honor of voting for and helping elect the first Green Party city council member in Minneapolis. It felt good to enact actual change, even if the momentum of the Green Party waned. Ultimately, I still see them as the best fit for my particular political belief system. Environmentally minded, suspicious of corporate political influence, committed to social justice, supporting reform of campaign finance… in a word, progressive.
I hope another truly progressive movement arises from this current wave of unrest. I really believe these kind of positive changes can save this country.