Sunday, January 18, 2009

The hands that picked cotton now pick Presidents

The whole pomp around ushering in the new President has begun and by the end of Tuesday we'll be bidding a fond farewell to our favourite Sith Lord Bush and welcoming in the head of the Jedi Council, Barry. I intend to cry at the appropriate moment and a pox on anyone who sports a dry eye with anything remotely resembling cynicism.

Not everyone on the left will be welcoming in the President however. Sadly few of them will be expressing themselves as humorously as the Weekly Worker front page this week (pictured). Soon Obama will be being held responsible for every storm, war, bust bank and racist cop that happens under his watch and he's already been seen as complicit in the Gaza crisis and he's not even got the keys to the White House yet.

I think people need to remember - he's only the President and he's never promised to sort out the world's problems single handedly. Never.

It seems to me that some on the left have mistaken his supporters enthusiasm with Obama's own understanding of his capability to change the world. He understands that climate change wont be addressed without creating a movement on the ground and if the world's population sits back and thinks Barry's going to sort it all out for them then it's not Obama's failure but theirs. He's been pretty open about what's needed.

We have reached an historic opening. The government in the USA has been been a force for, well, evil in the world for a long time now. Pestilence, starvation and war have been actively promoted and approved by Presidential decree, now there is an opportunity to start turning that around. Starting from the assumption that Obama will be identical to Bush lacks a certain sense of perspective.

Obama's team is head and shoulders above anything Bush or Clinton before him assembled and on climate change in particular he looks set to reverse eight years of obstructionism and oilocracy. On Israel and Palestine the left have done nothing but denounce Obama but the objective facts are that the next few years *could* see a massive leap forwards in the region that would have been unthinkable under Bush. Are we going to help make that happen?

I'm deliberately holding back on commenting on Obama too much until he's got at least a month or two of Presidential power under his belt. Partly because the speculation overdrive has largely tended to be reaffirmations of the commentator's previously held beliefs - and I've wanted to avoid repeating that cycle. Also I'm holding off because I want to cleanse my palette a bit after the very long Presidential elections.

When he's in the wrong, and he will be many times, I want to be able to say it loud and clear without feeling the need to justify my support for him. When he's right I want to feel that I'm not just waving a flag for the guy but have made a real assessment. I know some people have decided to get their disillusion in early (and frankly I treat with skepticism anyone who claims to be disillusioned in Obama before he's even President, twits the lot of them).

The opportunity is there and we have to seize it with both hands. One of the greatest barriers to a sane policy on climate change, the economy and global conflict has just been removed. They say all political careers end in failure, but when Bush goes we all win! It's my opinion that this is not the moment to prepare the case for how disappointing Obama is, but to help build a series of movements that constructively address the fundamental problems the world faces.

Sometimes those movements will need to oppose Obama tooth and nail, sometimes they'll need to fight for influence and sometimes we will need to reinforce, enthusiastically, his administration's policies. We have to be able to do that in an open way, without the sectional impulse to always claim we know better - even at the price of distancing ourselves from the very people we have to win to active involvement in campaigning work.

No one will sort the world's problems out for us. Not Obama, not Superman, not Nick Clegg, not Ed Miliband and not Caroline Lucas - they're all busy playing poker with each other anyway. It's us or no one and, no matter how tempting it is, if we allow ourselves to fall back on relying on or blaming the great and the good we've abdicated our responsibilities and left our parsnips well and truly unbuttered.


JS.Ray said...

feel free to call me a twit then Jim. Well, maybe, I wouldn´t say I ever had the illusions to be disabused.

Jim Jepps said...

That, Jack, is precisely my point and why I will not be launching a 9mm twit-o-matic in your direction.

If you were never for him that's a point of disagreement. Sadly some people who never supported Obama's campaign in the first place have posed as disillusioned already... I just think that's dishonest frankly. Either that or really, really stupid.

I've never thought of you as falling into either of those unhappy camps.

Red Green Nick said...

Love the Weekly Worker headline, nice to see Stalinists have a sense of humour!

scott redding said...

I find that eating some poppy and pumpkin seed biscuits and water can help clense the palate before blogging.

The New York Times recently pointed out that 53% of white voters in Alabama now had favourable views of Obama, compared with 17% before the election. That's stunning. He has gone out of his way (HRC, Rick Warren, Robet Gates) to build consensus, since, I would guess, that's the only way he will get enough people to agree to wrenching change on "energy independence" and healthcare.

JS.Ray said...

I think that´s just people liking a winner tbh. I mean HRC is not exactly a big draw for Alabama conversatives either...