A goosestep in our future

The list of broken promises seems endless: “fflambeau” at FireDogLake cites transparency; health care; bringing new faces to Washington; opposing telecom immunity; renegotiating NAFTA; repealing the Defense of Marriage Act; abandoning the always ridiculous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy; lobbying; taxes on earnings over $250,000 per year; closing Guantanamo; ending the practice of extraordinary rendition; state secrets; allowing five days to pass before signing legislation; and as s/he puts it, “a host of other issues.” I would add that Barack Obama has replaced soldiers with contractors in Iraq, belying his promise to withdraw from the country; supported renewal of Patriot Act provisions; sought to replace Guanatanamo with Bagram; clung to the powers amassed by his predecessor; and in general replaced “change” with more of the same.

Indeed, as Glenn Greenwald wrote,

It’s hardly unreasonable to object when someone runs for high political office based on clear and repeated promises that they have squarely violated. Whatever else is true, watching Obama embrace extremist policies can still be “disappointing” even if one isn’t surprised that he’s doing it. I could understand and accept a lot more easily [progressives’ and Democrats’] blithe acquiescence to Obama’s record if it weren’t for the fact that progressives and Democrats spent so many years screaming bloody murder over Bush’s use of indefinite detention, military commissions, state secrets, renditions, and extreme secrecy — policies Obama has largely and/or completely adopted as his own.

It was a mistake to see Obama as a progressive. To me, this became apparent about the time it became clear he had defeated Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic party nomination. Not that Clinton would have been a better candidate, as she demonstrated on her recent trip to the Middle East and South Asia. But as time has gone by, the picture has only grown worse, replacing hope with hopelessness.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Obama’s handling of the economy has been abysmal. Millions have lost their jobs, but after rushing to bail out the banks, as Paul Krugman writes, “Later this week, President Obama will hold a ‘jobs summit.’ Most of the people I talk to are cynical about the event, and expect the administration to offer no more than symbolic gestures.” That summit will precede by one day the release of what will surely be yet worse employment statistics. A desperately needed investment in infrastructure and in state and local government that would put people to work in real jobs is simply not on tap from an administration more worried about budget deficits.

Not only do 2010 election results look likely to be ugly, but I am now finding it hard to believe that Obama can be elected to a second term. The way he’s going, it doesn’t even seem like he wants a second term. And yet it is also apparent that the Republican strategy is not an electoral strategy.

With both major parties not only discredited, but seemingly doing everything possible to discredit themselves further, we are no longer in a situation where the paradigm of two major parties makes any sense. And widespread desperation in the country means that people cannot be apathetic.

I have used this forum repeatedly to question how this can come out, suggesting that the Republican strategy may be a coup strategy. There is a frightening segment of the U.S. population which believes only Republican lies. Their racism evokes a rationale that actually makes the Ku Klux Klan comprehendible. And when they carry weapons outside the venues of Obama’s speeches, I think of lynchings.

That’s why I’m so scared about where this country is headed. Republicans might not literally be goosestepping down a main street near me any time soon. But I’m not seeing leftists rising to the challenge. And that means that our system of government and our society have nowhere left to go.

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