All across America in late 2008, millions of people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs integrated themselves into an electoral coalition that reacted to eight years of presidential ineptitude and fraud by electing a man of genuine intelligence and integrity, Barack Obama, as President.
For the sake of argument, let's divide that coalition into two main parts: The Fired Up people who believed Obama was worthy of their passionate, active support - and The Fed Up people who were to varying degrees less enthusiastic or involved, but who still voted for Obama because they were so sick and tired of eight years of ruinous Republican rule.
There were also those on The Left, Right, and in The Middle of the political spectrum, who never came close to voting for Obama - but they're not the ones who ruled the roost on November 4th, 2008.
Thirteen months later, that Election Day coalition is suffering the effects of a sobering and scary roller coaster ride over a track leading from campaigning to governing, from candidacy to presidency; a track that keeps running round and round if not running completely over major health reform, economic reform, and energy reform; a track laid in the quicksand of political compromise, if not the burial ground of political concession.
By trying to follow a conciliatory Middle Path of Liberalism, featuring repeated efforts to find common ground with centrist-right forces and corporate elites, the President at least temporarily empowered them, while losing ground with the fragile coalition that expected a bolder, more unyielding and productive first year in office.
Yet the facts support a substantive assessment that President Obama has still had an unquestionably industrious and fruitful first year in office - beginning the long, arduous process of undoing the damage done in the dark days of Bush-Cheney, while simultaneously pursuing progressive initiatives of his own.
But facts and substance are far less understood and appreciated these days than are simplistic appearances and impressions, in politics as it is in most of American life.
In the wake of ill-conceived, weakened, or stalled domestic reform efforts; the continuing military occupation of Iraq; the overtly escalated military incursion into Afghanistan; and the covertly escalated military incursion into Pakistan - the cumulative appearance to the general public is that America is not getting the Change that Obama promised. And the impression among increasing numbers of Obama's original electoral coalition is that the he is not pushing far or forcefully enough for the Change they worked and voted for.
So how loyal can The Fired Up remain, and for how long? Team Obama is in danger of seeing more and more of them opt out of the pool of phone-banking, email-writing, door-knocking activists that are counted on so heavily for grassroots support.
A few have already climbed out of that pool, after the health care and energy reform initiatives they'd waited so long for failed to challenge the hegemony of corporate elites in ways that would truly transform those industries. More than a few more jumped out of the pool following the recent, ill-advised Afghanistan escalation.
In one of those predictable political twists of fate, a not so insignificant percentage of those who were once so fired up for Obama, are now getting quite fed up with him.
And what about The Fed Up who never got fired up to begin with?
Poll numbers - though better for Obama at this stage of his first presidential term than they were for Bill Clinton - indicate that many now blame the Democratic president and Congressional majority for not having made more progress in cleaning up the mess they inherited from President Bush and the Republicans.
While far too many financial "experts" who helped get us in the mess we're in - the Robert Rubin Crowd - have far too much say in how current economic reforms and recovery efforts are unfolding, a simple glaring truth remains: The mess our country is in is almost entirely the result of outright vandalism by the last White House team, and the subsequent, ongoing obstructionism of the Republican Party - and not the product of any dereliction of duty on the part of the Obama administration.
But, given The Fed Up folks' pudding-soft level of "support" for Obama to begin with, and absent any quick solutions to our multiple national problems, the issue of Republican responsibility and accountability for causing and exacerbating those problems is, for now, of little interest to most center-right Joe & Jane Six-Packs.
They just want some damned relief.
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