Hope, But Little Change

I am well aware of the fact that I am the kind of voter no elected politician wants to hear from, particularly not after an election. I’m in favor of bank regulation, gun control, and the public option; I’m against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the continuing occupation of Palestinian lands, the suspension of habeas corpus, and the use of torture; I support the right to marriage for all and I also don’t want anybody telling women what to wear or what to do with their bodies. In this country, such views are liable to get you labeled a godless socialist. But I will still say what I think.

I was excited about Barack Obama’s election and I really wanted him to succeed. I still do. But after one year in office, I don’t think he has delivered any significant change on the major issues facing the United States. He allowed major banks to receive taxpayer money, but did not demand accountability in return. His work on the public option was so anemic from the start that it was no surprise at all when the option wasn’t included in the Senate version of the health care bill. He expanded the war in Afghanistan, which he’d pledged he would do, but he hasn’t imposed a definite timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, despite his promise. It is now possible that some of the Guantánamo Bay prisoners will stay in detention forever, without trial. He hasn’t categorically outlawed torture. He has completely ignored the rights of gay citizens and he hasn’t stood up for women’s reproductive rights during the health care debate.

Many people still think that Americans are better off with Obama. Usually this means “better off than with George W. Bush, or John McCain, or Sarah Palin.” This is true, of course, but are we supposed to be happy that the country is not run by an idiot, a megalomaniac, and another idiot? They point out that Obama banned water-boarding, or that America’s image abroad has improved, or that he helped nullify Ledbetter v. Goodyear. Those are all good things, but they don’t weigh enough in the balance after one year. And this voter, at least, feels she has the right to expect more.

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