Collecting On A Promise: Demanding That Obama Deliver on The Mandate for Change That Swept Him Into Office

As I watched the millions of people on the National Mall in Washington DC kick their feet up and shout along with Garth Brooks at the pre-Inaugural concert on Sunday, I wanted to feel a sense of relief at this phenomenal show of patriotism. Without question, the departure of the puppet of darkness from the White House is a huge step in the right direction and worthy of some major partying, as is the fact that this country has finally reached the point where a person of color can be elected President and in the process bring so many people to the table who understand the need for and are deeply committed to change.

But I am deeply troubled by the opening moves of the Obama Administration. We need to not lose sight of Obama’s intention to step up operations in Afghanistan. And we should be very worried that his energy policy sees an ongoing place for nuclear and coal technologies, neither of which are safe, clean or cheap in any form and it astounds me that Obama has not taken the time to visit and address the enormous coal ash spill in Tennessee. This cavalier dismissal of this ecologic plundering of our planet does not bode well for badly needed leadership in environmental policy. And the appointment of Tom Vilsack, a long time supporter of corporate farming, sends a dangerous signal for food policies in a time of escalating costs and hunger. And Eric Holder’s role in the Marc Rich pardon certainly leaves one to question his ability to uphold justice.

One wonders also where is a clear vision for a health system that provides medical care without bankrupting those it serves to benefit big pharma and the insurance industry. And I for one have little faith that a man who forgets to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes can lead us out of this economic crisis. As David Korten points out, “our economic crisis is, at its core, a moral crisis.” Nor do I understand Obama’s silence on the atrocities committed in Gaza, saying that there is only one president at a time is not an excuse for silence in the face of war crimes and gross violations against human rights. It is also just mystifying why the deeply homophobic Rick Warren was asked to be a part of the Inaugural festivities.

The one area that I do feel somewhat hopeful for in terms of real change is women’s human rights and reproductive health. Joe Biden has been a staunch supporter of the Violence Against Women Act and the International Violence Against Women Act and the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. There is also every indication that the Obama Administration will not continue to support the hugely ineffective abstinence programs and that the Global Gag rule will be rescinded in short order freeing up badly needed family planning funds both here and abroad.

Finally, as Elizabeth Holtzman points out, it is paramount that Obama address the Bush Administration’s violations of the Constitution because not to do so would signal yet another grievous disregard for the laws of this country. And Keith Obermann points out on Countdown that it is not sufficient to simply say we won’t torture again, it is absolutely necessary to prosecute the crimes of the past or they will happen again.

As Robert Jensen rather eloquently phrased it, “Like many others on Tuesday I will breathe a sigh of relief when Obama is sworn in, but I won’t breathe easy,” because it remains to be seen whether Obama can bring real substantive change or whether his election merely signals a return to business as usual in the pre-Bush years. If the latter is the case, we are in deep trouble, so deep that we cannot afford more than a one day honeymoon. When the sun comes up on Wednesday morning, it is time to get back to work and let the Obama administration know the mandate for change that swept him into office was not a hope but a demand.

Lucinda Marshall is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the Feminist Peace Network. Her work has been published in numerous publications in the US and abroad. She also blogs at WIMN Online and writes a monthly column for the Louisville Eccentric Observer. Read other articles by Lucinda, or visit Lucinda's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ramsefall said on January 21st, 2009 at 4:55pm #

    Thanks for the link to Korten.

    Best to you.

  2. Brian said on January 21st, 2009 at 5:55pm #

    Obama’s mandate is nothing more than that he be a good parade leader since his movement is nothing more than a corporate generated parade.

    This change that he advocated was always vague due to his skill at appearing to be whatever people wanted him to be. Not enough people looked at the reality that Obama was always one of the two corporate candidates in the Dem field. Indeed his campaign would never had gotten off the ground had he not had key elite interest, commitments and support by Nov. of 06 from the FIRE campaign funding sector.

    Add to that a corporate media that was largely friendly to his effort, offering only superficial analysis of his political proposals, positions and views and a largely uninformed voting public and voila, you have a pro business, pro empire President.

    The kind of change that liberals and progressives want from Obama won’t happen. Forget about it. He never promised that. And if they complain they should go back and read what he said. Or just look at what he’s done. His appointments are almost all pro business, pro empire types. His education pick is reall bad. He’s already thrown the first stone at Venezuela.

    This is a man who chose Lieberman to be his mentor in the Senate and praised Ronald Raygun’s policies (read his book, he praised the man’s policies). One writer correctly characterized BO as deeply conservative. And from his flip flop on single payer to all his other lurches right he has shown that he’s clearly not interested in fundamental change that we need.

  3. giorgio said on January 21st, 2009 at 7:06pm #


    I couldn’t agree with you more. You spot on!

    By the way, didn’t you notice, as Obama pronounced the oath of office , the ‘Stars of David’ sparkling in his eyes?