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How Did "Yes We Can!" Become "No We Couldn't"?

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Schmookler       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   23 comments

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[This is the first of a brief series.]

1868: The slaves have been freed, and the Constitution amended guaranteeing "equal protection under the laws."

1918: The Armistice has been signed, ending "the war to end all wars."

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2008: Barack Obama is elected president of the United States, promising change under the slogan "Yes, we can!"

Moments marking major historical disappointments, and squandered opportunities.


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A few weeks ago, in response to Paul Krugman's much-noted column declaring Barack Obama a most "consequential" and "successful" president, I wrote a piece with the title, "Sorry, Mr. Krugman: Obama Was Elected Holding a Royal Flush, and Then Declared His Hand 'Ace High.'" My point was that defeating the ugly force that has taken over the Republican Party was Job One, that it was a task that could have been accomplished, that instead he "fed the beast that has consistently sought to thwart and destroy him," and that consequently the destructive force has maintained the power to act like a wrecking ball against the American political system and against everything our politics touches.

Defeating that ugly force was Job One because, as we have seen, none of the other vital tasks that face America - whether it be stopping our descent into plutocracy, or meeting the challenge of climate change, or making our socio-economic system work for all Americans, or any of the other many challenges we face - can be accomplished until power gets drained away from that force.

(I have been painting an elaborate portrait of this "destructive force" throughout my "Press the Battle" series, for example in the piece "The Republican Party's Extraordinary Pattern of Destructiveness".)

On one of the sites on which my "Royal Flush" piece ran - a place where my ideas are generally well received - I ran into considerable flak. On this site, which is a forum for Democrats, a variety of readers objected that it was not reasonable for me to claim that President Obama could have done much better to prevail over the destructive, obstructionist Republicans who made it their priority to make him fail.

What's important in this -- let me say here right off -- is not about President Obama, but about something bigger and deeper. It's about whether there's any real hope for America, and whether specifically there's hope that Liberal America can and will play the role that our nation needs for it to play.

President Obama will soon be part of our past. But the future of our nation depends on the ability of Liberal America to rouse itself to do battle effectively. With that in mind, I'll continue the story.

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In response to the flak I encountered, I posted a second entry, in which I asked:

So let me pose this question to those who think me wrong in my critique of the president: which of the following points would you disagree with?

1) The Republicans, as an opposition party during the Obama presidency, have behaved disgracefully, in unprecedented ways that profoundly violate American political norms.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)

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