Some of my friends have asked me why I am not angrier with Obama for his failure to pursue a more progressive agenda in his first year. Heaven knows, there is enough to be angry about, what with the character of his economic advisors, his failure to move more swiftly on the repeal of DOMA and DADT, and the absence in his inner circle of any truly progressive advisors. I could repeat, as I have many times, that I never expected him to be a passionate progressive, that he faces a moderate, not to say conservative, Congressional Democratic establishment, and that the overwhelming threat of a complete economic meltdown, coupled with the enormous difficulty of putting together a workable health care reform coalition, has forced him to postpone more progressive items on his agenda. But true though all of that is, it is not the real explanation for the tonality of my commentary.
The truth is that at seventy-five, I am simply weary of being constantly, gut-wrenchingly angry all the time. I started getting angry in the late Fall and early Spring of 1960-61, over the impending invasion of Cuba. I worked myself into a permanent frenzy over the threat of nuclear war. I got angrier about Civil Rights and the Viet Nam War. I folded in rage at the outrageously discriminatory professional treatment of my first wife, which triggered my successful effort to get the American Philosophical Association to establish a standing committee on the status of women in the profession. I was livid about Nixon, furious about Reagan, contemptuous of the first Bush, appalled by the second Bush. As Lily von Shtupp [Madeline Kahn] sings in Mel Brooks' immortal movie, BLAZING SADDLES, I'm tired!
When Barack Obama stepped forward as a candidate, I threw myself into the effort, donating the legal limit to his campaign, entering data in the campaign database, knocking on doors, doing poll watch duty. The night he was elected was one of the high points of my life. Damn it! I have earned the right to feel happy, at least for a year!