It has begun to dawn on even the most ardent of President Obama’s supporters that there is a gap between what he said he would do as a candidate in 2008, and what he has done since his election. “Gap” might not be the right word. It is a chasm in which you could lose a continent.
He promised to close Guantánamo Bay. It is still there, along with who knows how many secret “rendition centers” where U.S. laws against torture do not apply. Worse, his administration has produced a new rationale for indefinite detention without trial.
He promised to clean out the lobbyists, but they still own Washington.
Candidate Obama promised transparency and access by the media and public to the deliberations of his administration. Instead, his administration has prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act than all former administrations combined, for the crime of getting information to the American people.
Mr. Obama promised an end to war, but the U.S. is still bogged down in Afghanistan, is fighting undeclared wars in Pakistan and Yemen, conducting “operations” in Africa and Latin America and rattling swords against Syria, Iran and China. The Nobel Peace Prize Mr. Obama won after weeks in office begins to look like the Norwegians’ idea of humor. The joke, of course, is on the U.S. taxpayer, and who knows how many dead civilians on three continents.
Candidate Obama promised health care, and delivered a give-away to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies –- and skyrocketing costs.
And of course, as candidate and president, Mr. Obama promised jobs –- repeatedly. But the layoffs continue, the reality masked by doctored statistics. It is a catastrophe. Unemployment is not only massive, it goes on and on. And the longer it goes on, the less likely it is that those unemployed will ever again find work.
Americans are becoming aware that young people can’t find work, and millions are saddled with student loans they will be paying off for decades. But what is not yet fully understood is that legions of adult Americans will never re-enter the work force. Older men have been especially hard hit.
With prolonged unemployment came the foreclosures. The “sub-prime” borrowers were wiped out in the early stages of the first wave. Now the middle class is being battered. Millions will not make it.
In one area, Mr. Obama has been good for his word. He said it was vitally important to bail out Wall Street. That he did; and surrounded himself with Wall Street advisers, including a Secretary of the Treasury who has protected his once and future colleagues at every turn, and an Attorney General who has turned a blind eye to the fraud that brought the American economy – and people – to their knees.
Two weeks ago JP Morgan and its CEO had to go public with a fantastic loss in the kind of out-of-control speculation that brought down the banks in 2008, proving that nothing has changed and the so-called reforms of Wall Street are a sham. Incredibly, the president rushed to publicly defend the bank and its CEO. Given all that –- and there is more –- you might think the president would not stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being re-elected. But my guess is he will be. How is that possible?
The short hand answer of political pundits is that the GOP is on a death march to defeat, doubling down on a shrinking constituency of the ever more marginalized party faithful, playing the “no more taxes for the wealthy,” abortion, marriage, and “Remember the 50s” cards to a nation that has more urgent business and will never again be the 1950s. But that analysis sidesteps what is actually going on.
There are no longer two political parties in the United States, each offering a constructive if differing view of how to secure the welfare, prosperity, security and liberty of the American people. Instead, there is one party, the party of corporate profit and the status quo, kept in power by the ability to spend vast sums of money no political party can hope to match, and able to so dominate elections as to set up a choice for president that can only be described as one between two sides of the same bent coin. The same money owns Congress.
Where does that leave the American people? I would say, on their own. And that’s OK. There is enormous diversity, vitality and talent in America. And it is beginning to stir.
The first step to a better future is to show that we “get it”. Tune out the elections of 2012. They do not matter. The only possible result is more of the same. Go to the polls in November just long enough to vote for anybody for president but Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. If there is no other candidate on your local ballot, write in your own name. And then start looking around locally for the new ideas that can begin to rebuild the American democracy and what was the greatest and most broadly shared prosperity the word had even known. It is the only way.
Mike Krauss, formerly of Levittown, is an international logistics executive and chairman of the Pennsylvania Project. Email: email@example.com