A Year in, It’s Time to Make Obama Move

I was thirteen years old when George W. Bush won the presidency. My teenage and college years were under the shadow of this dark period of American history, with an imperial president capitalizing on a nation’s collective shock to wage war on nations, civil liberties, and the environment. Such were the only politics, all but stated outright, that I and millions of others my age knew for most of our sentient lives.

So you can hardly fault us for being swept up in the “hope” and “change” whirlwind that blew through our country with Barack Obama’s presidency. Young folks from coast to coast turned out in droves to knock on doors, work phone banks, and register new voters. Even people steeped in radical politics, deeply critical of the American two-party system, got on board. Some volunteered for his campaign, a task in which they had never imagined themselves participating; others decided they would vote for him, despite taking previous positions that they would never participate in electoral politics; many put forth a sharply critical stance in public or print, but one-on-one, maybe after a few beers, admitted that his campaign’s energy was infectious, and they were doggedly attempting to evade the grasp of that excitement—to no avail.

I fell into the final category. I knew all the reasons to be skeptical that Obama would pull us out of the abyss created over the previous eight years (or thirty, or two hundred), but I didn’t want to believe them. This could be different, I thought during the lead-up to November 2008. And on Election Night, I added my voice to the collective cheer that rose up with 200,000 others in Grant Park in Chicago, the new President-Elect’s voice echoing towards us from the other side of the park. This is the beginning of something new, I thought to myself, something better for this country and the world.

It pains me greatly, then, to look back on the first year of Obama’s presidency and realize that my initial instincts were correct. A year in, so many of us who thought this president would be different have come to realize he’s not—and is not going to be.

So many of those doorknockers, phone bankers, and voter registration workers feel so betrayed by a man they thought shared their values. The list of betrayals is long and well-known: expansion of the war in Afghanistan, continued and expanded use of private military contractors like Blackwater throughout the Middle East, drone attacks in Pakistan, expanding the war on terror to Yemen, rewarding the crooks on Wall Street with blank checks coming out of taxpayers’ pockets, the White House’s lackluster attempts to defend the eventually scrapped public option in the Senate’s health care bill, the weak action on reversing climate change—and on and on and on.

Throughout 2008, those of us who made Obama’s presidency possible—the aforementioned energetic young people, along with poor people and people of color and LGBTQ people and feminists and many others—have been told to remain patient, and that the White House can’t fix our country’s myriad problems within one year or one term. The same liberal pundits and cabinet staffers who saturated his campaign with a vision of Obama as Messiah now try to appease disheartened citizens with a more realistic, pragmatic politics. He’s just one man, they say—don’t demand the impossible.

But the truth is, we’re not. Asking the President to throw his weight behind a strong climate change bill is no pie-in-the-sky request. Calling for a health care bill that includes a public option is far from unfeasible. Demanding accountability from the banks and insurance companies who are still afloat only after massive infusions of taxpayer dollars is not unachievable.

Far from calling for the impossible, we have kept our calls firmly within the realm of the achievable, the conceivable, the doable. Yet time and again, we’ve been told the opposite—or worse, we’ve been promised change, only to see the status quo reproduced.

This can’t go on.

We can’t keep repeating these mistakes. We can’t allow ourselves to be silenced by an inside the Beltway logic that claims the United States is not ready for any tepidly progressive change in health care or foreign policy. Obama’s first year in office should be a wake-up call to everyone, especially we young people who put so much faith in his ability to bring change to this country, that change won’t be delivered to us. We have to wring it out of those in power.

Where, then, do we go from here?

LGBTQ activists provide us with one answer. Some have called for a boycott of the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party until the White House makes good on the President’s campaign promises in favor of gay equality—mirroring the demands of October’s National Equality March that drew over 200,000 to Washington, D.C. Their fervent hope for justice denied, they now realize that an Obama presidency does not entail an automatic deliverance of equality—if the president is going to move, we have to make him.

They provide a strong example for other fighters for justice. If we’re going to get the President and the rest of the Democratic Party to act justly, they’ll have to feel the heat as we take our anger public.

There’s no way around it. Organizing to fight Obama might have sounded absurd a year ago as we watched him enter the Oval Office, our hopes high that he would soon deliver a better world. But as we look on as our dreams for a more humane and just world go down in flames over and over again, it appears to be the only strategy we have left.

Could it read "Micah Williams is a writer who lives in Chicago. He can be reached at: micah.williams52@gmail.com. Read other articles by Micah.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on January 18th, 2010 at 10:36am #

    US; oops, bush cldn have said it clearer ab what obama wld do: u`r with us or against us. He or US told u obama will never be against US!
    As things stand, no prez wld ever dare be against US. Aggressions against indians which were conducted over two centuries or so r now being carried out against neoindians.

  2. John Hatch said on January 18th, 2010 at 3:16pm #

    Hi Micah,
    Good article!

    In spite of America’s self-delusional hypnosis of goodness and decency, it has always been a very violent nation, beginning with a native genocide (who would hand out smallpox infected blankets as ‘gifts’ or feed live native children to dogs?) slavery and enduring rabid racism, endless invasions and indefensible wars, meddling, coups and support for repugnant dictators, the subversion of democracies, assassinations.

    Kennedy was murdered by elements of the CIA because he pissed them off over the Bay of Pigs, he wanted reconciliation with Cuba, with the USSR, and wanted out of Vietnam. Nixon was more of a thug than most people will ever know. Reagan was a murderous (and very dumb) person. Clinton was a neo-con bottomfeeder. Bush I was quite braindead, but nasty. The Highway of Death.

    But it was Bush/Cheney who brought criminality mainstream. Invasion. Kidnapping. Torture. Murder. Wall street. 9/11.

    Obama had a choice. He could have attempted to live up to his promise, or turn it into a lie. He chose the latter course. Perhaps otherwise he would have gone the way of Kennedy, but he made the decision to run. In choosing to excuse the crimes of Bush Cheney, in following the same path, Obama became criminal himself.

    I believe that Obama advisers are aware that ‘doing the right thing’, the pursuit of Bush and Cheney crimes against humanity would lead to the revelation of their complicity in 9/11, with unpredictable and perhaps earth-shattering results.

    In making such patently false promises, Mr. Obama has disgraced himself. It’s not enough to be a President. One has to be an honorable person. He is not.

  3. Wingnut said on January 19th, 2010 at 9:54am #

    Hi gang! I hope everyone’s well. In pondering this initial post, and simply put, I feel that it is a finger-pointing toward the incorrect causes.

    One thing one might ask one’s self is… WHO/WHAT is “in-charge”. I suspect that a substantial number of “folks” both in and out-of the USA… think that the “role” of USA president… is an all-encompassing power-wielding position. IS IT?

    A few of us haters of ownership, economies, imperialisms, empires, pyramid schemes, capitalism, etc… view pyramid schemes like capitalism… as ONE BIG COMPANY. The USA and its busynesses… uses one type of survival coupon (money), and all others are banned. And that pyramid scheme symbol on the back of the USA dollar… could be called the AmWay symbol (American Way/New World Order). I believe it is a Colombian freemason symbol and thus… the USA gov is in a district of Colombia and not part of the USA.

    Think about that. Now, would a big pyramid scheme-o-servitude and inequality corporation such as capitalism… use their CEO as their spokesperson for the company? Unlikely.

    There is likely a “secret” that Obama had to deal-with in hte early days of his “role”. That “secret” was… “You”re a spokesperson”. Obama is the public interface for the White House… and that White House is an “image” or symbol of “We can tell armed forces what to do and who to attack” and that gives the role of USA president… a type of heavy-handed “you’re safe and sound” image.

    And as spokesperson for AmWay PR, Mr Obama had to “farm out” much of his duties. The folks who WERE in-charge of powerful things like Bilderburg, NSA, CIA, DHS, FBI, etc… primarily held onto their previous duties, or at least the DEFINITION of those duties didn’t change much. THOSE groups/orgs have spokespersons/representatives that brief the president on issues, but not all of them. There is a type of data known as “black ops data”… and that’s collected by spies and spying, and similar. That data… just CANNOT be told to the USA public. No matter how loudly ANYONE screams for transparency, black data will NEVER be told to the USA public. The public is much too yappy, and public-released black data could/would endanger the people of the USA.

    So, since Mr Obama is a PR guy… and probably quite low on the totem pole at AmWay Inc/Empires-r-Us… do you think a place like the NSA even bothers telling Mr Obama of black data? Probably not. Mr Obama probably gets deductions and suggestions from the PR people in those big dog departments of AmWay. (NSA, CIA, DHS, Military black ops)

    Where does that leave Mr Obama? Leveraged, that’s where. There’s likely pressure from every single side of things. And then, more powerful than all other pressures… is the “old gold” families, reputations, and traditions. These big powerhouse families have had a BIG “say” about the running of the country (AmWay Empires Inc) and its foreign policies… seemingly FOREVER NOW. Its tradition. Its Old Gold. Golden bloodlines. Its been going on for years, and its probably impossible to change… until the pyramid scheme collapses due to top-heavy.

    Even in the childhood pyramids in the playgrounds, the bottom layer “tough kids” really needed to be treated extra extra kindly and held in a high-esteem limelight, because their backs were breaking so often. This is the “service sector” in a way of speaking, and its called the “working class” by folks like the IWW union. Right now, the bent-back tough kids are being abused, and they are refusing to join the pyramid scheme-o-servitude. (They got smart, finally). The 18 year olds are starting to notice the blatant parental policy reversal from SHARE SHARE SHARE… to FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT when they turn 18 and HAVE TO get a job working for AmWay Empires Inc… or starve. OR ELSE, mister/missy!

    Last I knew… “OR ELSE” was felony extortion… and when someone is OR ELSE’d into the competer’s church called capitalism/AmWay, that’s also forced religion, and thus kills membership in the cooperator’s church (Christian socialism, potlucks, barnraisings, no-economy, no-ownership, communes, quakers, amish, mennonite, etc.)

    Ok, that’s enough wandering-off in the many directions of Wingnut. I’m against economies and ownership… because I want to be like the animals and NOT use those things. Plus, economies, cause rat-racing, and rat-racing leads to pyramiding. Its a long story… but… capitalism/AmWay will collapse, just like all childhood pyramids did/do. Consider it dead. BUT, can we keep from using a DIFFERENT economy in the long-run, and thus avoid repeating this sure-to-collapse pyramiding cycle yet again?

    All in all, though, the actual “cause” of the deep “traditional” problems of the USA… is the use of economies and ownershipism. Remove those, and the ivory towers of power come tumbling down, and then… we MIGHT use intelligence and heart… as the criteria to measure great leaders… instead of today’s traditions and old gold. Obama never had a chance to do any serious change… and maybe NO president can. Sorry if this sounds racist, but, a black president is likely MORE reluctant to test the waters of power… than a white president would be. Politics and power is still white-dominated, in my opinion.

    Take care everyone!

  4. lichen said on January 19th, 2010 at 3:12pm #

    No, wingnut, the rich and powerfull are responsible for their actions; no conspiracy theory can excuse the corporatism and war crimes that obama chose to order; someone with better politics and moral fortitude, such as Nader or Mckinney, would not have done these things. Obama chose not to do them, and he is guilty, should be prosecuted and voted out of office.

  5. beverly said on January 19th, 2010 at 10:18pm #

    I’m glad Micah is awaking from the Obama kool-aid hangover. What took you so long? Even during the campaign, “Brand Obama” raised more red flags (empty rhetoric, hawk/labor hating/imperialist pig campaign team and advisors) than a Communist parade. Why his followers fell for the “be patient,” “he can’t fix everything,” spiel is beyond me. After Obummer picked his horrendous cabinet and allowed Wall Street to loot the Treasury, there left no doubt which way he was swinging agenda-wise. For those still holding out “hope,” see our govt’s Katrina-like handling of relief in Haiti along with Obama’s naming W and Clinton (two administrations who fucked over Haiti big time) to supervise the effort.

    Oh well, better late than never I guess – if it’s not already too late. I’ll cut you a break due to your young age. Please continue to wean yourself from Obamabotland and the Democratic party plantation and try (good luck) to get everyone you can to do the same. Don’t reward bad behavior by continuing to vote for the same bastards who keep screwing people over. Keep informed of the facts via this site, counterpunch.org, blackagendareport.com, chris-floyd.com, rt.com (Keiser Report kicks ass!!!), and tedrall.com. Congregate and agitate. Silence is deadly.

  6. Don Hawkins said on January 20th, 2010 at 1:41am #

    But the truth is, we’re not. Asking the President to throw his weight behind a strong climate change bill is no pie-in-the-sky request. Calling for a health care bill that includes a public option is far from unfeasible. Demanding accountability from the banks and insurance companies who are still afloat only after massive infusions of taxpayer dollars is not unachievable. Micah

    After the election last night in Massachusetts the first Republican Senator in many moons change has come to America. A few minutes after the win on Fox New’s they said the health care bill is dead and cap and trade is dead. It appears that even before this election the health care bill was a tad bit complex and started in 2014. Cap and trade is a joke on the human race and again complex foolishness. I watched the speech the new Senator give after he won and he did say we don’t need the health care bill and more money to the military to keep American strong, oh dear. Lot’s of smiling faces last night like they did something important and we will be back to normal very soon. I guess the message got out all that money so the few can make more money at least for a few more years. Many people it appears are just scared and change to much to fast they didn’t like. That change was just illusion it was not real but they didn’t see that part. It is amazing to watch all this and sad at the same time. I guess the best we can hope for is the stupidity on a grand scale and ignorance is strength spreads through out the land and we will be one at least for a few more years.

  7. Don Hawkins said on January 20th, 2010 at 3:30am #


    If you read this ask yourself one question if what this person wrote is true why is that so? How about in a time of Universal deceit where ignorance is strength it’s just better that way. That’s not what is happening oh really then maybe someone could tell me what is happening. Here in the States if you were a Democrat I guess you wanted health care reform and what else there must be something. If you are a Republican no health care reform and what else. Anyway let’s watch the weather in California and that ice up North could be different the next few day’s and is this happening because of climate change? No happens all the time on and off in the last few hundred years and in 20 years when the sea ice is gone what then will we see? Am not a big believer in ignorance is strength so again what will we see? Draw a line at about 48 degrees around the Earth and what will we see and granted a few other minor problems facing the human race and other life forms and all seem to be related but it appears change is coming we are starting to understand this election last night in the States proves it and the moon is made of green cheese and human’s do walk with Dinosaurs I saw one the other day in a pond sort of. From what I understand the creature I saw makes shoes that can be seen in the halls of power my shoes are made from oil again prehistoric creatures. Yes we will all be back to normal in a blink of an eye here in the greatest nation on Earth that’s Earth only here for what reason?

    Well, I came upon a child of God
    He was walking along the road
    And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going?
    This he told me

    Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm,
    Gonna join in a rock and roll band.
    Got to get back to the land and set my soul free.

    We are stardust, we are golden,
    We are billion year old carbon,
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

    Well, then can I roam beside you?
    I have come to lose the smog,
    And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning.
    And maybe it’s the time of year,
    Yes and maybe it’s the time of man.
    And I don’t know who I am,
    But life is for learning.

    We are stardust, we are golden,
    We are billion year old carbon,
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

    We are stardust, we are golden,
    We are billion year old carbon,
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

    By the time we got to Woodstock,
    We were half a million strong
    And everywhere was a song and a celebration.
    And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
    Riding shotgun in the sky,
    Turning into butterflies
    Above our nation.

    We are stardust, we are golden,
    We are caught in the devils bargain,
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

    Anyway what do you think commodities, gold is oil a safe bet the dollar? Knowledge, working together, imagination, and a substantially new manner of
    thinking if humanity is to survive is that going to happen well so far about 4.5 billion light years away on second thought make that about 14 billion light year’s away.

  8. Don Hawkins said on January 23rd, 2010 at 6:51am #

    “In 2009, it was clear that even the deepest solar minimum in the period of satellite data hasn’t stopped global warming from continuing,” said Hansen.