Cynthia Gordy of The Root has written an article criticizing Obama’s efforts to alleviate the plight of the poor since entering office, in light of the White House’s recent report on the same. Her tone reminds me of myself and most liberals’ complaints about Obama – in short, we think he’s not strong-willed enough – and every topic ends with a quote from somebody making the same “yes, but…” argument. For instance, on Health Care:
Claudia Fegan, a physician serving low-income patients in Chicago and a spokesperson for Physicians for a National Health Program, says that Obama’s initiatives have good intentions. “But the process is too complicated for most poor people, who have fairly chaotic lives, to access,” she said.
Economist Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women, says there’s no doubt that Obama has provided assistance to the poor, but cites challenges. “There are some really good things that the administration has done around poverty, but they have not been proportionate to the extent to which the problem has increased,” she said.
“The foreclosure crisis hit the African-American and Latino communities in 2002, so we’re talking about a problem that is really entrenched,” said Lisa Rice, vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “I think the administration has done some things well, but we’re playing catch-up to a large degree.”
Each topic reads almost exactly the same: Progress, but not enough. Yeah, okay, okay. We get it. We’ve been steadily edging back from the brink – and dear god, there most certainly was a brink – we haven’t turned around and started walking away from it.
But, honestly, we know that. We knew that implicitly. Making a four-page article about it seems… redundant, especially considering it fails to make a single mention as to why he may have failed to live up to his campaign promises on all these fronts. There’s lip service towards the end of the article that dismisses his “playing politics,” but let’s get real: That 400lb gorilla in the room is an elephant.
It really does take getting all your ducks in a row in order to effect substantive political change. Obama didn’t have much to build upon, so the fact that he made any progress at all – against a party that’s out for his blood, has spent hundreds of millions, if not billions, questioning the legitimacy of his presidency, and has shown an ardent and effusive desire to sabotage the government and the country until he is out of office – is a testament to his ability. But, quite simply, he cannot do it alone, and we don’t have all that many strong leaders in the Democratic party.
As pointed out by Robert Caro, it took nearly ten years of concerted effort to create the sort of situations in which Lyndon Johnson could pressure Congress to pass the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964. It wasn’t just a rush to curry votes book-ended with a tense face-off against Strom Thurmond. It was the result of a great long deal of “playing politics.”
By contrast, the relatively quick and decisive policy rehauls – to make a grand understatement – during the tenures of Lincoln and both Roosevelts were nothing if not tumultuous, fraught with peril, and very, very illegal, as far as the expansion of executive power went. Their actions saved this country from some horrifying crises, and in some cases were victorious against severe opposition, but I seriously doubt we’d let Obama – to say nothing of the GOP – do anything remotely as bold without metaphorically lynching him.
So, much as I complain about the protesters downtown, and much as I’ve also railed against Obama’s seeming reticence to work the system with some elbow grease, give them credit: At least they’re doing something. But no good deed, however, goes unpunished.