A Lexicon of Disappointment
Obama's 100-Day Hope Check
Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard.
This is a good thing. If the superfan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.
Which brings me to the final entry in the lexicon.
Hoperoots. Sample sentence: "It's time to stop waiting for hope to be handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots"
Obama's 100-Day Hope Check
Are Barack Obama's supporters wondering where the hope went? Does the campaign now seem only a golden dream? After all, Obama's been in the White House for over three months, and people are still losing jobs and houses, US troops are still overseas, single-payer health care is still not on the agenda. Surely the President should have fixed all that by now with the power of his mighty hope machine.
I have a lot of respect for Naomi Klein, but I think her own hopes for a mass radical movement are getting in the way here. According to polls, after all, Obama is wildly popular. A Harris Interactive poll released on April 7 found that 68% of Americans have a good opinion of him. That doesn't necessarily mean they approve of everything he's doing, but it means that a heck of a lot of people who didn't vote for him like him now. Is there any evidence that "a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard"? And by the way, did anyone over the age of 21 ever really believe this? That hope, an emotion, was going to "save the world," the way children clapping their hands saves Tinkerbell? Are Americans really such idiots? Hmmm, better not answer that.
I know a lot of people who supported Obama, and every time I see them I ask how they think he's doing. The only people I've found who've given up on him, who feel betrayed, misled, and foolish, are those leftists who didn't like him in the first place and voted for him in a weak moment as the lesser evil. They, predictably, went back to their cabins on Mt. Disdain before Obama had even been inaugurated. Obama will never satisfy the left because no president could. FDR didn't satisfy the left either.
I was a strong supporter of Obama but I always thought hopespeak fell somewhere between metaphor and twaddle. Obviously, Obama was not going to turn the US into Sweden. Obviously, he would make all sorts of compromises and deals. And obviously I would hate that. That's politics. Where am I on the hope-o-meter? Like everyone, I'm worried about the bailout, Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm appalled that he envisions no prosecution of those who set up the legal framework of torture and those who carried it out. And what about Bagram? On the plus side: he's been terrific on women's rights and reproductive rights here and abroad, made some excellent appointments (Hilda Solis at Labor), reached out to the Muslim world, opened communications with Cuba and Iran, said he'll close Guantanamo, declared an end to torture, and, with the stimulus, successfully challenged the notion that government spending (except on the military) is bad. He's made it less embarrassing to be an American. I think he'll make good judicial appointments. If another Katrina happened tomorrow, I think he'd handle it well.
It's important to challenge Obama. No president deserves mindless loyalty. But color me modestly hopeful -- for now.