Thursday, January 21, 2010

Oh Bummer!

Image from flickr*

Some anniversary present. Barack Obama must wonder sometimes where the 'we' in his famous motto got to and why they left him carrying the 'can'.

Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate for Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat, hadn't read the script or, it appears, a campaign manual of any kind. In a country feeling its way along the precipice of financial and social collapse, there is no such thing as a safe seat. Losing the filibuster-proof majority in the Senate is not the end of the world. It probably only means US Senators will get far less sleep and heartily sick of talking about health. Yet, the reaction to this single Democrat defeat in America has exposed an ugly weakness in belief. People are suddenly terrified at the thought of Obama failing. Not surprising I suppose given the ludicrous and I'm guessing unwanted lashings of faith ladled upon his election victory. The last thing a decent, competent person with a tough job to do needs is a messiah mantle. 

The rabble that has assembled around Obama in the last year must make him wonder if he's the only sane person left in politics. It really does seem that Americans thought that they could down tools after electing themselves a black guy. It's a rather insidious form of racism. On a superficial level it suggests that the appearance of equality will somehow conjure the reality of it without any actual work having to be done. The other, even more abhorrent inference, is that having given minority man a chance, he's expected to do it all himself. That's a win/win for alpha man, who you will notice, chose to sit out the race when the presidency looked a little too much like hard work. 

Maybe it's a good thing the Democrats have had this big psychological defeat. Maybe it's an opportunity for Obama to stamp his personality on the presidency with a clean, if painful break from the Kennedy era. A new image is long overdue for the Democrats and if they want to get their reforms through the Senate, their Senators will have to do some serious work - all of them. Convince some folks that 47 million Americans without any form of healthcare is neither compassionate nor equal and certainly not tolerable in the twenty-first century. We're not in 1960 anymore Dorothy. Hopefully, next time Obama looks up from his growing to-do list, he'll find he's not the only one with his sleeves rolled up. 

* 2008 US Presidential Election poster by Shepard Fairey from original photograph by Mannie Garcia for Associated Press.