Sunday, December 07, 2008
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
Many people are (justly) dazzled and proud of the achievement of electing Obama President. Cynical me, I try to look beyond symbolism and appearance. National politics is more about advertising than substance, collective vision/illusion more than policy, about aspirational hopes more than reality.
Despite Obama's claim that he will set the tone and agenda of his administration, the number of conservatives praising his cabinet choices seems curious and discouraging to me.
We seem to be a nation easily impressed by surface appearances and symbolic narratives. The strong celebrity worship nurtured by Hollywood and TV is part of it but it's more than that. We are prone to collective self-delusion when it comes to political leaders.
Already the signs are there from Obama: Reneging on campaign promises, compromise on US troop withdrawal from Iraq, a weaker approach to economic problems, and the list goes on.
Since Franklin D. Roosevelt, our political process has basically been a very conservative one. We do not like big changes despite the slogan of the past election. Obama was the face of change, but actual change? Not so much by the indications so far.
Radicals do not get to be party nominees. Hell, Liberals can barely be heard in the debates. The winnowing process starts long before it ever get to the conventions, by the media and by the party brokers. Candidates who really desire to change things do not get to the end of the process.
I hope I'm wrong. I see the small telltale signs and my heart begins to sink. Symbolism is not policy.
This is all preliminary impressions, though, and from indirect signs. Obama is not yet in office. We haven't seen what he'll do in the first 100 days.
So we wait and we watch.