President Obama recently visited his fathers home country of Kenya, a welcome home for Obama, who Kenyans consider a long lost son. The homecoming however was somewhat spoiled by Obama’s gentle reminder of their need to alter positions on human rights and same sex marriage. This has been the general theme of African Tour. Obama’s speech writes itself as he begins the end of his presidency, a farewell world tour jaunt from the soon to be former ‘Leader of the Free World.’ Basking in adulation, praise for the strides made by a continent whilst instilling a reminder that they have some way to go. The problem is that the same speech could very well be the eulogy of his presidency.
With 18 months left of a presidency that offered so much, an opposition House and Senate the chances of any ground breaking new initiatives by a 2nd term president are unlikely. Obama will always be remembered as the first African American President of the United States, a symbol of the progress the U.S. has made in racial equality. Yet there is so much work left to do.
In Obama’s America income inequality has continued to rise more than doubling from 1980 levels. The top 1% now account for almost 20% of the national income. With gun related homicides set to overtake auto mobile deaths, with a seemingly never ending stream of national tragedies based on racism, homophobia and untreated mental illness, all of whom pass current criteria for gun ownership.
Obama, came to power under a groundswell, that change was not only possible but realistically achievable. ‘Yes we can’ was the mantra that engaged a generation of disaffected. When he leaves office in January 2017 it will be these same people who will be less optimistic, and less likely to believe in change.
For any president the first term is where the real session of potential change takes place. With a majority in government, Obama could have pushed through his legislative agenda. Instead he sought consensus particularly on Obamacare, resulting in half measures which did not tackle the gross inequalities or corporate greed of medical insurance. It is in this issue that highlights the difference between those who the media would portray to be left wing politicians and the right.
After 9/11 George Bush, with Republican majority parliaments easily pushed through legislation amid mass public and democratic protest. The Patriot Act was not to be discussed and consensus delivered, you either agreed or were unpatriotic. Obama on the other hand seemed his ultimate goal was to ensure a second term, reneging on his promise to dismantle the Guantanamo Bay torture camp , or to withdraw troops from failed foreign wars. Recently, following another tragic mass shooting, Obama announced that eventually America would have to deal with the issue of gun control. Is this not why you are in power? What is the purpose of his presidency if he is already passing the load onto the next one?
As much as you can be opposed to and despise their policies the Conservative Government today has instilled their ideological beliefs tearing apart the fabric of our society. Does the right have a stronger ideological strength than the left in implementing their course of action?
To agree with this we must fall for the notion that Obama wanted to offer real change. The truth is that Obama, like others before him who promise so much, was just as much a part of the establishment as George Bush was. Similarly the New Labour Government promised real change but inevitably offered little in the way of substantial transformation. We will not for some time at least see the SNP vision of change they promised in the referendum but what is for sure is that a pro NATO, pro Monarchy, pro big business and neo liberalist party would have a hard time making the metamorphosis often promised.
Dictators like Mao and Stalin used a cult of personality to widen their appeal, today it seems that establishment parties are using the cult of change to convince voters that they will be different. But without real action these will only just be words and voters will quickly tire of another false dawn, allowing the current crop of corrupt political drones to maintain the stranglehold on power both domestically and throughout the world.
It is up to the voters to begin to realise false prophets and it is up to political parties who would genuinely offer that change to show the way and become a realistic alternative. Until that happens the change we seek will never amount to much more than minor shift, than the permanent revolutionary change we are beginning to see so much support for.