We know now, two years into his first term, that he is no revolutionary. That, I think, is what we were hoping for; that is what many of us believe that we were promised. We took the word "change" he reiterated so frequently during the campaign and made of it what we wanted; what we wanted was radical, revolutionary change. We wanted--I include myself--comeuppance for the Republicans, a full repudiation of all the misconceived and misconducted policies of George W. Bush. We wanted, as the Tea Party-ers are fond of saying, to take our country back. We wanted an end to war. We wanted a reversal of what we saw to be the corporate takeover of this nation, of dishonesty and cheating at the highest levels of the financial industry, of the exploitation and co-option of our government and politics by the rich. We wanted an immediate and irreversible turnaround, and that was what we heard when we were promised change.
Looking back on it, I realize how much I projected on this one man, Obama. There were political realities that I forgot--political realities that had to do not just with "Washington" and "Republicans," but with the readiness of vast numbers of my fellow-countrymen and women to accept the kind of change that I myself believed in. America was not--is not--ready for a revolution. So it was not only a disastrous legacy that he inherited on all fronts from his predecessor--two wars, an economy in tatters, a deeply divided and toxic political climate--it was also a country whose proclivities were far more conservative than my own, or those of almost everyone I know. I find it hard to acknowledge that there are those who disagree with my enlightened views, but regrettably it is so.
So, no revolution. Too bad. But the fact remains that Obama has already achieved, or at least addressed--in the view of a no less well-credentialled progressive than Rachel Madow, expressed on a morning network show today--about 85 percent of what he promised during the campaign. There's no doubt that a significant part of his agenda remains unaddressed, notably Guantanamo, immigration and, yes, those Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. And more. But I again agree with Madow, that those issues have not been abandoned or betrayed. The President has made it clear that there was some nose-holding to be done in making the compromises that he made; and that those tax cuts will need to be revisited in the next two years.
I'm glad that Obama managed to fly off to Hawaii for his family Christmas with a couple of victories behind him. I wish him well. I admire his courage, his remarkable calm, his humor. I continue to believe that there is method and vision for the future in his measured, accommodating approach, and that we will continue to move forward with hard-won changes in the direction of this country. I personally wish that it could happen faster, more dramatically, without compromise. But this is a massive and unwieldy ship we sail in, in these perilous times. It will take time and patience to set it back on course.