Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thoughts on Barack Obama

With the current economic crisis and the nation-wide Occupy Movement going on, it is easy to blame president Obama for our various national crises, and people have certainly done that. But I see Barack Obama in a different way. I see him as a transitional figure and a (perhaps unintentional) instigator of a real change in America.

Barack Obama irreversibly changed the game of national elections. He was perhaps the first president elected in the era of globalized social media like facebook, twitter, youtube, even google.

For most of American history, elections were a game for the old school political machines: corporate media endorsements, good old boys clubs (like Orange County's own Lincoln Club), religious juggernauts like the Christian Coalition, corporate contributions, special interests, unions, etc.

What Barack Obama did was to empower and mobilize a new generation, technologically savvy and generally disconnected from the old political apparatus. People voted for Obama because he represented a new way of doing things. No longer do you need some inside connection to be politically involved. You need only a computer and a brain. What Barack Obama did was to democratize an American election, perhaps as had never been done before. This, I think, is the chief legacy and contribution of Obama. Not his policies or positions, but how he got elected in the first place.

Once in office, however, he hit a major roadblock. Perhaps he had democratized the election process, but the actual legislative process was (and is) still dominated by the old school machines: corporate lobbyists, political action committees, major media, powerful and monied interest groups, and good old-fashioned party loyalty.

The American political process is still a fumbling dinosaur, a fact that has been frustratingly illustrated by Obama's political impotence. Any "reform" bill he magages to pass is a piece of compromised bureaucratic poop.

But the movement, the change inspired by his election, continued. And when the fumbling dinosaur allowed ordinary Americans to lost their homes, their savings, their faith in American politics, this movement stepped up and evolved into something America has not seen since the Vietnam War: a real, national, grass-roots political movement...the Occupy Movement.

Using their technological savvy, global social media, and a newfound passion for participatory democracy, this movement has grown and continues to grow. I doubt presient Obama anticipated (or even wanted) the revolution his election inspired, but it is here just the same. The game has been changed, irreversibly.

One question that has been heavy on my mind for a while is...What's next? To quote Samwise Gamgee, "How can the world go back to the way it was after so much bad has happened?" We cannot go back. We can only go forward. I don't know what the future holds for American politics and society, but I am hopeful and I will continue to do my small part in my small corner of America, to seek a more just and peaceful and truly democratic America.


1 comment:

  1. Certainly the worldwide OWS movement speaks to the power of the web and social/political networking. It's free, for the most part, and provides an outlet to those who prviously might have been sitting on the fence about local, state, national, and world issues.

    A case in point is Wisconsin, where a true grassroots movement of volunteers, many of lthem first-time, have networked to work on the recall Governor Scott Walker.

    In a little more than two weeks, they have already collected 300,000 signatures of the 570,000 needed to mandate the recall in a 60-day period. The big, outside monied interests that have countered with $2,000,000 worth of old-time TV ads have not been effective in slowing down the movement to dump the Gov.

    Without the networking technology and a new generation of activists, such a quickly-organized, full-speed-ahead movement might never have happened.