I'm sitting here at work listening to Obama's inaugural speech because everybody is riveted to the screen. Fortunately, I'm pretty good at multi-tasking. As he speaks of the challenges that lie before us, I'm compelled to reflect on the hope and change he promises.
Obama made it pretty clear that he's not planning to govern from the left. The Left made it pretty clear they expect him to do it anyway. The Right are sharpening their blades in gleeful anticipation of cutting his policies to shreds now that they're back in the obstructionist role they perfected. But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Obama will be able to leverage the public support he currently enjoys to function effectively and neuter the Republican noise machine. I wish I could say that I have hope.
Obama's cabinet picks have been a mixed bag, at best. Some neocons from the Bush administration, a genuine scientist for the Energy Department and a lot of former Clinton appointees. Eric Holder has been encouraging in his statements about torture and investigating the crimes of the previous administration, but he brings a lot of baggage from his work with Clinton and the stigma Republicans have tried to attach to him. Overall, Obama is looking like a centrist.
We don't need a centrist right now. We need someone who is going to change our national dialogue the way Reagan changed it in the 80s. We need someone who will help repudiate the conservative ideology, not try to make nice with it. Conservatives still wield significant power in the nation because we've allowed conservatives to take control of our media. Unless we hammer home the notion that it wasn't conservatives that failed us but the entire conservative ideology, we're going to end up with another Bush administration. Obama has promised change, but unless he leverages his public support to move the nation farther left, any change he brings will be short-lived.
It's important to "reach across the aisle" and cooperate with political opponents. The key there is "cooperation." Republicans signaled to the nation in 2006 that they were not going to cooperate at all with the Democratic majority that took control of Congress, and they followed through on that promise. They're signaling now that any cooperation that takes place with the Obama administration will be on their terms, not his. It's almost as though they think they swept the last two elections, instead of the other way around. But they're on the defensive, and they know this game very well. They'll gnash their teeth, rend their clothes and howl to the press who will repeat every word verbatim without ever once investigating the claims being made. The Republicans have become confident that their every word will be taken as gospel because no one (outside the blogsphere which they're trying to simultaneously discredit and subvert) is willing to challenge them.
We've just spent the better part of two decades with conservatives calling the shots, and we're now facing problems we haven't seen for two generations. I fully expect this crisis to far surpass the Great Depression, not just because of our economy but the problems we've created for ourselves in the global community. We need to lay the blame for these problems at the feet of the Republicans, because they are most directly responsible for making them happen. We won't do this if our leaders insist on being centrists. Being centrists only work if the opposition is willing to meet us in the middle. There may be more Democrats in office than Republicans, but there's far more support for the Right than the Left in our government.
It's too early to pass judgment on Obama and his administration. He just now finished taking his oath of office, and he hasn't even had a chance to sit in the big chair to start making any decisions. His cabinet still needs time to get themselves installed and address the vast scope of the crisis we now face. I'm not going to abandon all hope just yet. But I will point out that based on first impressions, I'm not expecting more than a brief respite from the nightmare of the last eight years.