06 November 2008

In the Aftermath of the Election (2)

So, yes, the symbolic importance of a black man having been elected president is striking - inspiring, even. It is difficult to over state that. Yet, we require more than symbolism. And the list of "usual suspects" who the president-elect is considering for high ranking positions in his new administration is distressing. It makes Katrina Vanden Heuvel (whom I respect and whose views typically resemble my own) look like a fool. Compare her list of potential movers and shakers with the list of pretenders jockeying for position according to, say, The New York Times.

The election allowed us to "throw the bastards out," although Paul Krugman's characterization of the BushCo crowd - purveyors of, among other things, torture and lies and economic hardship - is surely more apt. Like Krugman, I see no need to make nice with the Republican machine that has foisted disaster after disaster on a country all to willing to acquiesce. (And while Krugman sees the election as a victory for tolerance, this will come as a surprise to gay and lesbian citizens in Arkansas, Arizona, California and Florida.)

Has the election given us more? As is usual, Rebecca Solnit seems to capture my apprehensions pretty well in her reflections on the Obama victory: "I thought we were entering an era where we would do without heroes, but we have been given a hero, which is a bit like being given a chainsaw or a credit card: you have to be careful how you use it." My fear is that many of the people who voted for Obama actually anticipate big things from him. I fear that they actually expect that he will make good on the hope and change and the 'yes we can' slogans that were festooned across his campaign. And when he doesn't, the hope will dissipate and be replaced the despair and disappointment.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Public Squalor said...

I think all the glassy-eyed optimism says more about those voters than Obama. Somehow many of us think democracy means voting for the candidate who can best speak to our wishes and fears - fuck substance or mechanisms of accountability.

No doubt Obama's a powerful speaker but his politics are those of a "pragmatic", centrist democrat. The Emanuel pick along with his Transition Economic Advisory Council (not a single labor representative!) underscore that.

BTW - the Nachtwey piece was just great.

Peace -

07 November, 2008 14:23  
Blogger Dawei_in_Beijing said...

So far, the people Obama has surrounded himself with are typical Washington/Wall Street power brokers. Are these folks really going to bring about progressive change? His chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, was a managing director for Wasserstein Perella & Co., a top Wall Street boutique. He's also the largest recipient of hedge fund and private equity money, in congress. Change, huh?

07 November, 2008 16:48  
Blogger Michael said...

Pragmatist, maybe. But what really counts as pragmatic? The New Deal was pretty pragmatic. So was the Labour government in Britain after WWII. What is pragmatic can come as a shock to plenty of people. And there's no guarantee that the pragmatic will not be sensationalized by subsequent writers of history. And as for "centrist": it sounds pretty radical to me, after what we've been through.

07 November, 2008 20:14  

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