Weekly address first:
This last week we’ve seen a lot of turmoil in Washington and in the media as regards how well or how poorly the administration is handling the various aspects of the economic crisis. Viewpoints and statements are all over the map from opinionated but non-partisan to opinionated and deeply partisan.
It’s the job of those who are partisan to try and forward in the public’s mind some particular narrative which helps their political goals. That’s irrelevant except where those narratives take hold and become “the truth” in the noggins of many, thus influencing what people believe and how they will act and who they will support in elections and in activism.
The modern media is big on these narratives because they are simple and easy to communicate in small sound bites (eg “Bush showed himself to be resolute” or “The people love Obama” or “Obama’s popularity appears to be fading”, etc) These little stories are definitely not necessarily true or accurate. When constructed or told by highly partisan individuals, they can have no or almost no relationship to the truth of things. Far too often, the media act as stenographers for these claims, refraining from or refusing to analyize them critically or to sufficiently analyze them. That’s just the reality of things presently.
Those of us on the left who mostly agree with Obama’s emerging agenda and wish to see it carried through successfully have probably felt a few jolts in the last couple of weeks. There is confusion on what economic policies ought to be followed now and whether his team is doing this right or not. In large part, that is because of the immense complexity of the issues and the fact that even the ‘experts’ are not in concurrence on how to proceed. But another large factor here is that this confusion and uncertainty is being promoted full tilt by the Republicans and conservatives who function as their front men.
Another factor, predicted by all of us before the administration even began, is the pushback and obstruction of Obama’s goals that would arise from the many wealthy and powerful vested interests who benefit from the status quo (Wall Street, the corporate world, the arms industry, the lobbying industry, etc). Proposed changes to, for example, labor laws, healthcare and the defense budget would, everyone understood, be met with large and dedicated campaigns to bring about the failure of the proposed changes. And we’ve seen these gearing up and in operation now.
It would be foolish to assume that all of this is or will leave the Obama administration unscathed. This is a unique period in American history and a critical one. Frequent analogies are made, very reasonably, to Reagan’s readjustments of the political world, to Johnston’s tenure during the sixties and to FDR earlier. But if the economy continues to degrade, then possibly only the FDR period will be comparable.
It won’t be easy for the left as time goes on. But the alternative, America in the hands of Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, religious barbarics, anti-intellectual wolf hunters and plumbers, homophobic bigots, weapons salesmen, global warming deniers, creationists, and a super-wealthy and mainly self-interested financial elite seems rather too dire to even imagine.