Wednesday :: Dec 31, 2008


by eriposte

In the last 8 years, the brand of America was willfully trashed by George Bush and Dick Cheney in many ways. Extreme ideology combined with a penchant for almost unprecedented venality and just plain meanness - both at the White House, and for many years, within the GOP-controlled Congress - brought America to its knees. The casual commission of war crimes, the trashing of America's long-term national and economic security, and the stepping stones for massive long-term environmental damage, were all the primary handiwork of the Bush-Cheney administration. Yes, there were some Democrats who enabled parts of this terrible agenda - and they deserve blame where it is due - but the bulk of the responsibility for where America finds itself today clearly rests with the current President and Co-President. In Nov 2008, the American public agreed, and said enough is enough.

I have never been more eager to see massive change at the top and for America to rise high above the depths plumbed by the Bush administration. Therefore, I cannot say how much I am looking forward to January 20, 2009, when President-Elect Sen. Obama will take over the role of the primary executive and set an agenda for positive change. The big question for some of us is whether President-Elect Sen. Obama will in fact be as aggressive in driving change as we hope he would. I suppose we'll find out the answer in the next few months and I'm more than willing to be patient and give him the benefit of the doubt at this point. However, I'd like to add some perspective here because I feel it is important.

There are three primary ways, in my view, on how to evaluate the incoming administration.

The first way is to compare the incoming administration's actions to Sen. Obama's promises during the election campaign. At one level, this is only fair, because Americans have a right to see him follow-through on his promises. This also means acknowledging that Sen. Obama left himself a fair amount of room for maneuvering in a few specific areas (including Iraq) - and if his actions fall within the gamut of views he expressed during the election, that in itself would be a good starting point in my view.

A second way to evaluate the administration is to recognize that through the course of the last months of the year, the American economy has experienced a dire change unlike anything we've seen in decades, thereby calling for visionary leadership that can drive foundational changes in American economic policy. We also have reminders, both in Israel-Palestine and India-Pakistan, that the world has many festering problems that desperately need transformative and visionary changes to American foreign policy (I wrote a bit about how this might be accomplished - and I will continue to write more on that). In this evolving environment, it is reasonable to argue that incremental or even moderate changes from the Bush-Cheney years is likely to be inadequate. Polls show that a large percentage of Americans are now eagerly looking forward to the Obama Presidency and the positive change they hope it will bring. Therefore, it is reasonable for Americans to expect that President-Elect Sen. Obama and his cabinet will deliver the kind of truly transformative changes required to effectively rescue America and other parts of the world from the broad malaise and the frequent conflicts that often have deep economic underpinnings. Given that, it is also reasonable in my view, to evaluate the Obama administration's actions through the prism of the kind of changes really required to turn America around long-term and make it a respected leader across the world once again.

A third way to evaluate the administration is through the eyes of truly progressive activists who, rightfully, see America as being in a unique, once-in-a-few-decades situation where a majority of Americans are actually receptive to truly progressive policies, as long as those policies can be shown to bring about significant positive changes in the lives of Americans. According to this view, one that I myself articulated during the primaries earlier this year, today's America in many ways is not the America of the 1990s, when conservatism was dominant. Today, conservatism as an ideology is generally in decline and the economic meltdown has delivered body blows to free market fundamentalism. It is therefore quite reasonable to expect President-Elect Sen. Obama to use this opportunity to drive a truly progressive vision and beneficial progressive policies across the board.

Speaking for myself, I will likely view the Obama administration's actions primarily through the first two lenses. However, there are others - including possibly other writers at The Left Coaster - who will likely view the Obama Presidency through all three lenses. In my opinion, that is perfectly reasonable and part of what we call Democracy. Even the best leaders need frequent persuasion, offered in good faith and through fair critique - that is going to be a critical part of rebuilding the nation.

Let me wish you all a very happy new year 2009 and offer my appreciation for reading my work here at TLC. It has always been a pleasure and even though I am often constrained by time, I hope to continue the discussion and conversation in the year ahead as much as possible. My very best to you, your family and friends for the new year! I will be back next week to kick off the new year.

eriposte :: 8:04 AM :: Comments (20) :: Digg It!