I Won't Be Fooled Again

The Democrats keep calling me. They’re asking for money. It’s understandable, I guess. Ever since voting for Dick Gregory’s Freedom and Peace Party presidential campaign in 1968, I’ve pulled the Democratic lever and even actively campaigned for Gore, Kerry, and especially for Obama.

Not a big-time donor, I made small contributions routinely. Not a campaign organizer, I put in weekly stints at the phone bank, where I happen to be very effective. Not a media pundit, I jawboned my friends, including my highly skeptical editor, to vote for the dude.

It’s paying volunteers like me who help win elections. Yet, many of us grassroots activists share a sense of mounting despair, anger, and profound disillusionment with the present administration, adding up to a far bigger threat to Democrats than the Tea Baggers can muster. Yo! We’re your base! Labor, women, minorities, young people, and progressives – remember us?

Look what’s happening:

* On September 20th, Bob Herbert, the African-American Op Ed columnist for The New York Times wrote of the “disenchantment among black voters, who have been hammered disproportionately by the recession and largely taken for granted by the Democratic Party.”

* On September 17th, Steven Greenhouse of The Times reported that “like other important parts of the Democratic base” union members are down on the party. Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federal Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, told Greenhouse, “They’ve been disappointed that the House and Senate haven’t done more, especially to create jobs.”

* And what about the kids, Obama’s strongest, most active supporters in 2008? They won’t be back for a long time. You don’t need a Pew Research Center poll to tell you that, although there was one earlier this year.

Obama’s broad-based betrayal manifests in his failure to address the banks’ greedy and irresponsible practices — without which no genuine economic recovery can occur; his incredibly misguided engagement in the grotesque war in Afghanistan in alliance with the corrupt Karzai administration; his inaction on global warming and pre-BP support for offshore drilling; his suspiciously lackluster effort to promote universal healthcare; and his refusal to stand up for the Greens in Iran and for human rights activists in China, Russia, Israel and elsewhere.

The way I see it, the most sinister turn has been the Obama Administration’s stance on torture and surveillance. Let’s get this straight. Torture is illegal and immoral. It is cruel and baseless. It doesn’t work and even if it did, it doesn’t matter. Rendition — sending someone to another country to be waterboarded and have his nails ripped out — is just as bad as if you did it yourself. That’s now on all of us. The Obama administration’s decision not to prosecute or in any way hold accountable Bush and Cheney for these crimes, going even further to legitimize their practice, will surely offer comfort to those who carry on such heinous practices in other countries and serve as a threat to people everywhere who dare to challenge authority.

This is not a risk; it is inevitable. We can see the terror these weapons of mass oppression wield in places like China, Russia, and Iran. Stop for a moment and picture such tools in the hands of Sarah and her cohorts. It makes the Salem Witch Hunts look like the June fete.

Looking back to Obama’s victory and the attendant Democratic landslide in 2008, I never thought I would see a day when progressives had such a chance to influence the course of history in our country. That once-in-a-lifetime chance has now been squandered. The last 21 months of Democratic rule amount to a failed opportunity on the scale of Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs’ disastrous “Big Bang” after the collapse of the Soviet Union, not to mention Paul Bremer’s epic mismanagement of post-invasion Iraq.

What Obama failed to comprehend is that we the people were looking for broad-based, fundamental change, “change we can believe in”, when we elected him. We believed that with Obama & Co., things would actually be different from what he aptly dubbed the “failed policies of the past”. The day after the election, I wrote my friends in words I wish were less prescient, “This is a restless, volatile nation that wants change for the better. If we fail to provide it, our country will readily turn elsewhere.”

We’re seeing that now. On the right, some Americans have fallen for the potent brew of bigotry and nouveau fascism the Tea Baggers imbibe. On the left, we’re just getting started, with the recent “One Nation Working Together” march in Washington and Daily Show Jon Stewart’s wild & woolly “Rally to Restore Sanity” coming up on October 30th. We want leaders who will serve us and not the banks and the Chinese government, who will not debase our name and endanger us by promoting torture and reckless wars, and who will not compromise on healthcare, job creation, education, and the environment. If the Democrats can’t deliver on these pressing issues when they control all three houses, with an overwhelming mandate to act, I say to heck with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I still plan to vote – my father voted from his deathbed. In fact, writing this led me to check out just what Dick Gregory might be up to. On a hunger strike, actually. Yep, starting on September 10th, the rail-thin 78-year-old former comedian announced he would take in only fluids “until the real truth of what happened on the day [9/11] emerges and is publicly known.” Admirable maybe, but probably not presidential material. Then again, for a fresh start, Jon Stewart might be just the ticket. Let’s see who the joke’s on this time.

BETSY ROSS it the pen name of a journalist and businesswoman who lives in the Philadelphia area, who contributes occasionally to ThisCantBeHappening!