One of my tiny band of blog readers has responded by email to my recent post about Richard Wolffe's new book, Renegade, with some depressing, but honest and true, words about the various ways in which Obama has disappointed those of us who stand firmly with the progressive forces in America. I shan't quote him or give his name unless he chooses to allow me to, but I think I owe him a reply.
Let me be honest. My heart, like his, has sunk as I have watched the Obama administration embrace preventive detention, file a brief in support of the hideous Defense of Marriage Act, and in many other ways continue the policies of the Bush presidency [though we must always remember that it was Bill Clinton who signed DOMA into law.]
But I am seventy-five. I have spent most of my long life deploring, protesting against, detesting the actions of the American government, starting half a century ago with the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion. I do not have that many years left, and I need desperately to believe that some good things are still possible.
There have been many promising actions in the first five months of the Obama presidency, some of which at least have been matters of substance, not merely of style or tone. Not enough, to be sure, but many nevertheless. I am keenly aware of the constraints against which Obama must struggle because of the constellation of forces in the Congress, over which he has very little control. Nevertheless, he has at least as much power for good as Bush had for evil, and at least thus far, he has failed to use it as he might have.
What can I do? I have asked this question many times during my life, and the answer is always the same. Whispering in the ear of the king is never the solution. Rather, we must change the shape of the forces to which Obama and the rest of the government respond. In short, in the words of the old union activists, Organize, Organize, Organize.
I do honestly believe that Obama is prepared to respond to progressive pressures, if they are strong enough to allow him to assemble the coalitions he needs in Congress. I invite my readers, if there are any, to write in with concrete suggestions of actions we can take to build support for the policies we believe in and hoped an Obama administration would advance. None of us can make much difference alone, but enough of us can truly transform this country. In the immortal words of a young king, who happily still had many years before him, One more into the breech, dear friends...