As the economy worsens and the war in Iraq drags on, its no wonder that almost 80 percent of Americans believe were heading down the wrong track.
After eight years of George W. Bushs ruinous policies, the American people are aching for change. The change we seek isnt a cosmetic change but a fundamental one. We want our government to start working for us. Most of all, we want our leaders to be honest with us, to give us the straight talk that so many politicians pontificate about but always fail to deliver.
Enter Sen. Barack Obama. The junior senator from Illinois swept us off our feet with his electrifying oratory and soaring vision for the country. Back in January, we enthusiastically endorsed Obama because we believed he was the candidate of change. We believed he was a different kind of politician, one who would forsake politics-as-usual and instead value authenticity over focus groups and polls. We believed he could bridge the political schism and cure the color-coded polarization dividing the nation into red and blue states. Most importantly, we took him at his word when he said he would redeploy our troops from Iraq as quickly and safely as possible, thus ending the most egregious foreign policy misadventure in American history since Vietnam.
Since clinching his partys nomination for president, however, Obama has started to clarify, qualify and triangulate to such a degree that we can hardly recognize him from the inspirational change candidate he represented a few short months ago.
Its common knowledge that presidential politics consist of running to the polar extremes in the primaries to appease the base and then running to the center to earn the support of moderates and independents in the general election.
As such, its understandable, given his historic fundraising advantage, that Obama would renege on his pledge to accept public financing. Given his lead in the polls, it was understandable for Obama to shy away from engaging his opponent in a series of town hall meetings, though he previously said he would be open to doing so. And given their electoral importance, it was understandable that Obama would pander to Christian evangelicals by proposing to continue the Bush administrations constitutionally questionable faith-based initiatives program.
In the past couple of weeks, however, Obama has transitioned from moderating his positions to downright flip-flopping. Although Obama had previously vowed to filibuster any legislation that would grant immunity from prosecution to telecommunications companies who enabled the Bush administration to break the law and conduct domestic spying operations without a warrant, Obama has since changed his tune. He now supports a so-called compromise measure that effectively amounts to another congressional capitulation to the White House. As disconcerting and disappointing as Obamas rhetorical gymnastics on warrantless wiretapping is, it isnt the most troubling of his recent waffling.
Last week, Obama left open the possibility that he would refine his position on the redeployment of troops from Iraq, depending on the conditions he encounters on the ground and the advice of military commanders he talks to on his upcoming trip to the war-torn country. To be fair, Obama has not officially announced any change in his plans to withdraw troops from Iraq , but the simple fact that he is allowing himself the wiggle room to do so is depressing, to say the least.
Perhaps Obama isnt the great change agent we thought he was. Perhaps no one can change the system. Or maye we expected too much from someone who is, after all, just another politician. Instead of riding a wave of change to the ballot box, we are faced with the age-old lesser of two evils paradigm: Perpetual war and inequitable economic policies on the one hand, and spineless triangulation on the other.