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Obama Year One

by Steve Lendman

Promising change after eight George Bush and Republican dominated years, Barack Obama won the most sweeping non-incumbent victory in over 50 years along with congressional Democrats gaining large House and Senate majorities. In addition, at 56.8%, voter turnout was the highest since Richard Nixon’s “secret plan” to end the Vietnam war and his “Southern” and “law and order” strategies beat Hubert Humphrey and independent George Wallace in 1968.

On election night, the mood celebrated hope for progressive change, an end to imperial wars, and a new day for America. When word came around 10PM, expectant thousands in Chicago’s Grant Park erupted with chants of “yes we can,” hoping Obama would make a difference at a time of deepening economic duress.

In its November 4, 2008 editorial titled, “The Next President,” The New York Times called it “one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts,” then listed some:

— for the first time, Americans elected a black president;

— his triumph was “decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country, (and will change direction) to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world;”

— he “committed to ending a bloody and pointless (Afghan) war (and) restore Americans’ civil liberties and (the nation’s) reputation around the world;”

— he must now “prevent an economic collapse fed by greed and an orgy of speculation (by) impos(ing) control, coherence, transparency and fairness,” in contrast to George Bush; and

— he “now needs the support of all Americans (to help him deal with the) many other urgent problems that must be addressed.”

Endorsing his candidacy early on for a socially liberal new beginning, Nation magazine editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, looked for a “transformational presidency, (a) new era of possibility, a historic opportunity for a progressive governing agenda and a mandate for bold action….Tonight we celebrate,” she said.

Campaigning, he offered change, a new course, sweeping government reforms, addressing people needs, and “ensur(ing) that the hopes and concerns of average Americans speak louder in Washington than the hallway whispers of high-priced lobbyists,” the same ones he said wouldn’t run his administration, but would “have a seat at the table,” and why not given their large contributions to him and other Democrats.

Little wonder that a year later hope is now disillusion, frustration, and anger over promises made, then broken with an awakening knowledge that change won’t come unless growing millions demand it.

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