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The Short and Happy Presidency of Barack Obama

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Message Steve Blank

That's life / That's what people say

Flyin' high in April / Shot down in May

--Frank Sinatra

Not since the '69 Cubs or Skylab has our nation borne witness to such a spectacular fall from the heavens.

After running what was arguably the most brilliant presidential campaign in American history, Barack Obama won the 2008 election with a record number of votes and took office with a mandate for change. Polls indicated that the country was eager for an abrupt change in leadership and wanted an end to Bush policies including the occupation of Iraq, corporate tax policies that favored the wealthy, corporate access to the Treasury and a blatant disregard for our environment. Additionally, the large turnout for Obama was a call for job creation, immigration reform and universal healthcare. The people had spoken and they got their man.

Yet despite such clear ideological delineations, most Americans had highly contrasting expectations for the new presidency. Conservatives feared Obama would reveal himself to be a socialist while progressives hoped he would be the FDR of our times. Independent voters, for the first time representing the largest block of the electorate, were simply voting against eight years of W.

For everyone who wanted change, the rumblings of discontent should have begun immediately upon Obama's appointments of Clinton-era corporate henchmen Rahm Emanuel and Lawrence Summers and Bush Defense Secretary and Robert Gates, not to mention Timothy Geithner from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Within months it became clear that the new President was on a mission to emulate the Clinton presidency, defined by corporate-friendly policies and double-edged social policies that please nobody. Relying on a platform derived straight from the Democratic Leadership Council's "sellout to the right" strategies written in response to the success of Ronald Reagan, Obama proceeded to court support from the most powerful sectors of society while shouting out to the people who voted for him with soaring rhetoric that harkened back to his inspirational campaign.

While Clinton's first year was marked by stunning defeats, Clinton 2.0 would be different under Obama. With a huge Democratic advantage in the House and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, Obama planned to begin his tenure by succeeding exactly where Clinton failed --Â by passing a sweeping healthcare reform bill. And he had one more ace up his sleeve. He would usurp opposition from the big corporate interests by letting them shape the legislation in their own image. Their godly status would be "insured" by the passage of healthcare "reform," not threatened by it.

It all seemed too easy. What could go wrong?

Simple. A healthcare bill cobbled together by congressional sellouts and corporate lobbyists is not what the people want. It's sad that the most vocal opposition to Obama's healthcare plan came from disillusioned former Republicans turned independents (now identified as Tea Baggers). The real opposition should have come from sensible, sentient Americans who knew all along that universal healthcare is only possible by eliminating the profits enjoyed by insurance companies and replacing them with a government-provided insurance, a single payer system. But after having just voted for him, Obama supporters were not up to questioning his big decisions so soon. He abandoned the people and struck out on the same old corporate path as his predecessors, and his leadership in the movement for change was ended. By protecting him, Obama's supporters ensured his demise.

Last night, looking up in the skies over Massachusetts, shards of the Obama presidency were seen hurtling toward earth. The speed of their descent was breathtaking. Will we ever learn?

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Steve Blank is a broadcast journalist with the Health Writers collective of Madison, WI. The radio program focuses on issues of social and economic justice. Steve is a founding member of Madison's Single Payer Action Network and serves on several (more...)
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