Electing Obama Only The First Step Towards Real Change In Government

The push to select Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate continues to build as Obama won his 11th straight primary victory, winning 65% of the votes cast by Americans abroad in what was billed the “global primary.” As the candidates move towwards the Ohio and Texas primaries, Clinton campaign officials, including ex-President and potential future First Husband Bill Clinton, admit that if Hillary can’t win at least one of those states her campaign may well be over.

It’s no secret here that I am an Obama supporter. It’s his message that has energized me, in no small part because his message is so similar to the one I laid out when I began political blogging in 2005. Long before I even knew about Barack Obama I began writing about a different kind of politics- one where the power lay with the people and not with big corporations and special interest donors; one where politicians worked for the good of the citizens and not for the good of their benefactors or personal spoils; and one where government policies were crafted on sound principals of the greater good and executed with efficiency and common sense. Of course these weren’t new concepts when I wrote them and they’re not new concepts today, but when was the last time a serious politician not only espoused the rhetoric of political change but had the moxie to actually make it happen, to make it a central theme of a presidential campaign in such a visible and believable way? Not since Thomas Jefferson has a president offered such a stark choice for voters in determining what path their country will take. Jefferson’s grand change for American politics happened when he busted down the door of the new American aristocratic ruling class and delivered our government into the hands of the common man. Prior to Jefferson, political kingmaking and policy crafting was the exclusive domain of the upper classes, and the common man was thought too ignorant and/or too incapable of having a hand in political affairs. Jefferson abhored that idea, found it too similar to the monarch system of government this country fought so hard to divest itself of. Jefferson brought the common man into politics, and thus brought a bit more democracy in to this Democratic Republic of ours.

Of course, over 200 years later, Jefferson’s political revolution has paled, and too often seems little more than a charicature of itself today. Substitute today’s lobbyists and corporations for yesteryears well-bred and high-born, and the government we have been languishing under isn’t so different from where we began. We still have all the trappings of a democratic government-people vote after all- but none of the benefits of a government that truly governs for the betterment of its people. And the reason is simple- the average person still thinks that voting is enough, that personal involvement beyond casting a ballot is a waste of time, and our politicians and government reinforce this perception at every turn.

But Americans can see clearly now the failure that occurs when government is left to run amok, led for generations by self-serving ideologues, and finally handed over to a man-child whose best trick is to break the china and shove the shards under someone else’s carpet with a smirk on his face. We see that decades of citizen inattention and corporate dominance has created a wave of disastrous proportions coming on all fronts- a debilitating economic crisis, shattered health care and ineffective education programs, false security ploys that do little more than waste money,  a splintered and wounded defense capability- the broken bits are littered everywhere. Americans can see that change is needed. In Barack Obama, Americans are seeing that change is possible.

So let’s say that Obama wins the democratic nomination, wins the general election, and in January 2009 he is sworn in as the next president of the United States. Let’s say that he wins the election by a comfortable margin and has what would be considered widespread support among American voters. Let’s say that he rides into the White House with his banner of CHANGE waving in the wind, right under the American flag. What happens then?

Time for the reality check folks, because no matter how much I support Barack Obama and no matter how much I agree with his premise of change coming from the people of this country, from involving them and listening to them and acting to make their lives work a little bit better each day, I know in my heart of heart that the first two years of an Obama presidency will look a lot like they do now. In fact, aside from my hope that President Obama would put a quick and decisive end to the Iraq quagmire, I don’t expect much in the way of real-world political change from Washington D.C. until 2011 at the earliest.

The reason for this is pretty simple, but is probably missed by a huge number of voters. Because despite eight years of contrary actions, our president does not legally have brute power to do as he sees fit whenever he sees fit. Only in extreme circumstances (like in a government run by ideologues and selfish power brokers- or in a dictatorship) does a man like George W. Bush manage to reinvent the powers of the presidency and have his minions fall into lock step behind him. In normal, LAWFUL, administrations, the real power of government lies in the legislature, and the president is just the person who sets the tone, and guides the direction of government as the people see fit.

Obama is setting the tone now. The tone is change. The tone is getting corporations out of government and getting real people back inside. The tone is an end to wasteful spending and harmful policies. The tone is an end of cronyism and outsourcing and payback politics. And the people are responding to this new tone in politics. We want to trust our leaders again. We want to know that our hard earned dollars aren’t making the rich richer while we struggle to make ends meet. We want to have a say in how our taxes are used. And we want to reclaim our reputation in the world.

But even though this election could bring us new leadership in the legislature too, the attention and energy is all focused on who will be the next president. If the next president ends up being John Mccain or Hillary Clinton then the congressional seats up for grabs won’t really matter. Neither of those candidates have real plans to try to change the system of governing. They are both so entrenched in the status quo that they can’t even see why it has become so rotten. But if Obama wins the presidency, those who sit on Capitol Hill will be the conduit or the barrier to real change. And as few voters are considering the reality of the situation, a President Obama will be facing the same corrupted politicians, the same moneyed lobbyists, the same pay-to-play political culture for at least two more years.

Serious political watchers understand this, and critics of all things democratic are probably chomping at the bit for an Obama presidency, built on the mantra of change, that will likely produce little real change in the business of politics for at least two years. I can imagine the pundits now, ready to tear apart the concept of real political change by claiming that the campaign rhetoric was nothing but chump chat if Washington continues on as usual, as it is likely to do. But in looking ahead to this particular future, one can only hope that both the voters and a President Obama will use the first two years to plant the seeds of change, nurture them with care, and help them sprout into full fledged flowers of reality when the 2011 mid-terms come around.

As President, I expect Obama to immediately work to end the Iraq war and begin to repair this nations damaged reputation in the world. I would expect Obama to rescind the most vile parts of the Bush years- ending officially sanctioned torture, ending the most divisive aspects of partisanship, ending political policies that are shaped on evangelical, end-times philosophies. But I would also expect Obama to continue speaking about the things that have propelled him to the lead in this primary campaing. I expect him to continue to implore the people to seek power in government by ousting those who cling to the status quo of our dirty politics. I would expect a President Obama to issue a call for a legislature filled with people who believe that the politics of today are over, that a new day in America can only come when the Congresspeople and Senators finally discard the power-partisan politics, the high money campaigns or else get discarded themselves.

Change can come, it really can. But electing Barack Obama as our next president is just the first step towards change. We can’t just give the man the job and expect he can single-handidly change the corrupt culture in DC. We have to take the next step for him. We have to give him a legislature that will embrace a new day in American politics. We need to give him people who will fight for their constituents instead of their corporate donors. We need to elect a congress and senate who also embraces the power of change through people.

People may not be seeing this yet. Right now, the euphoria surrounds the possibility of a people’s president. And that’s all well and good. After all, we have to start somewhere, and electing a person who actually believes that change is possible, necessary, and achievable through the involvement of real people is a great place to start.

Just remember that Obama alone won’t be enough. We need to take the next step. It’d be nice to think that the steps would happen together, that not only would we elect a president commited to really fixing the worst parts of government but that we’d elect legislators who see things that way too. But in this I am realistic.

Barack Obama is just one man with a shared vision of a better America, a different America. We need him to be the next president if we ever want to move in a new direction. But we also must recognize that in order for him to succeed, in order for us all to succeed in changing the way our country works, we need to fill the halls of Congress with people who also will work for change. We don’t have these people there now. We won’t have enough of them there in 2009. But we have time to find them- people of all political stripes who care more about really helping America and Americans than they do about buttressing their resumes and bank accounts-and we have to elect them. Because with a president committed to changing the American government AND a congress that actually listens to the people, this country can once again be a leader in solving our own and the worlds problems without making things worse than when they started.

(cross posted on Common Sense)

12 Responses to “Electing Obama Only The First Step Towards Real Change In Government”

  1. Presidential election 2008 |Republicans Vs. Democrats » Electing Obama Only The First Step Towards Real Change In Government Says:

    […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe push to select Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate continues to build as Obama won his 11th straight primary victory, winning 65% of the votes cast by Americans abroad in what was billed the “global primary. … Read the rest of this great post here Posted by […]

  2. rube cretin Says:

    very impressive ken. i just hope the wheels don’t come off before obama takes over. the situation in so many areas is critical and if they deteriorate further the chimp may have to take action which could only be the opposite of what is really needed. we need a very steady hand on the tiller because there are huge clouds on the horizon. Hope this Serbia thing doesn’t escalate. Hope everyone here in the southeast is enjoying mother rain.

  3. Lisa Says:

    Obama must be President in order to accomplish what he wants because the corruption in Washington wouldn’t allow him to do anything in the legislature. And, as luck would have it, what he wants is exactly what the American people want.

  4. rube cretin Says:

    lisa,
    do you have a scoop? What exactly do the American people want?

  5. Craig R. Harmon Says:

    Not since Thomas Jefferson has a president offered such a stark choice for voters in determining what path their country will take.

    I don’t know. It seems to me that the Lincoln-Douglas election of 1860 offered the nation a pretty stark choice. It is impossible to imagine that the South would have seceded had Davis won the election whereas the first states seceded quickly upon learning that Lincoln had won. Had Douglas won, slavery may well have successfully been brought into the territories and, thus, been expanded rather than cut off completely. We would be an entirely different nation today, I think. Talk about change!

  6. steve Says:

    Rube:

    The American people want you to stop whining! j/k

    (i couldn’t resist)

  7. Craig R. Harmon Says:

    But if Obama wins the presidency, those who sit on Capitol Hill will be the conduit or the barrier to real change.

    Congress, if the first six years of the Bush administration has taught us anything, is not supposed to be a conduit for the executive’s every whim nor the executive a veto-less conduit for Congress’ every whim. They are a part of a government of checks and balances for a reason. Like the justice system, it works best in an adversarial atmosphere.

    Here’s hoping they’ll be a barrier. The less they get done, the better.

  8. manapp99 Says:

    “Here’s hoping they’ll be a barrier. The less they get done, the better.”

    Amen to that.

  9. Lisa Says:

    do you have a scoop? What exactly do the American people want?

    Whatever Obama is saying Rube,haven’t you been paying attention?:)

  10. Liberal Jarhead Says:

    Craig,
    I agree on the need for checks and balances, but I do wish they could find a middle ground between either one branch being the other’s rubber stamp or constant deadlock. Sometimes it’s good for government not to be too efficient, but sometimes we need them to get more done. I’d like to see them reverse the trend of rising deficit spending and doing something other than “staying the course” in Iraq, among a long list of other things.

  11. Craig R. Harmon Says:

    LJ,

    Well, if Obama gets elected, he’s gonna have a Democratic led Congress in both chambers with perhaps even a big enough majority that the Republicans won’t be able to stop ANYTHING Obama wants done. You’ll just have to forgive me for doubting that they’re going to be much of anything other than a rubber stamp for Obama’s “change that will stagnate the economy” or whatever his bumper-sticker tag line is or for preferring that they would be a barrier. ;-)

  12. Ken Grandlund Says:

    Craig-

    A couple of things…

    While the election of 1860 DID represent a very important time in this nations history, I don’t know if it can be said that voters of that period were well enough aware that a civil war was imminent. Despite the problems ignored by Lincoln’s predecessor, the expansion of the nation (and the expansion of slavery because of it) had been on track for some time with a compromised position agreed to by government, albeit an imperfect one, and by our own morality, a horrid one. My analogy to Jefferson was simply to mark the notion that Obama, like Jefferson, seeks to put politics and government back into the realm of the voter and out of the hands of an elite few, be they high-bred aristocrat types or oligarchical moneyed corporations.

    Secondly, my comment about the legislature being either a conduit or a barrier to change was not an allusion to having another round of “one party rule” but rather that of bringing in to the Congress legislators who are ready and willing to change the way of politics from a pay-to-play system dominated by donors and special interests to one which truly puts the people back in charge. I make no reference to one party rule, and in fact tend to abhor it in general. A vigorous government needs opposing opinions and points of view to best arrive at good policy.

    I look to a time when political races are pubically funded, where legislation is simplified and transparent, and where politicians actually want to serve their nation and constituents instead of their donors and personal future goals.

    Hope this clears things up a bit…

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