Will Obama really bring the "Change" we "Hope" for?

Monday, January 26, 2009


Written by Drew Garvie

So I’m a political junky/road trip fanatic and when I found out I had a place to stay in DC and a ride I decided I couldn’t give up the once in a lifetime opportunity to see the whole thing go down: the first African American President of the United States. I used to be an Obama fan, right up to the point last year when it became clear that he was going to beat Clinton in the primaries and the danger of having the Clintons back in the White House was past. Of course I still supported him over McCain but I began to become skeptical about his promise of “change”, whether he could actually accomplish anything or even whether he was sincere in the language he was using. Anyone can fling words like “hope” and “change” around but as always the American political discourse was pretty much devoid of actual policy discussions.

So I went to Washington pretty confused on where I stood surrounding the whole Obama phenomenon. I think I learned a few things by seeing and talking to Obama supporters in the Capital of the Empire, but I admit that I am not a prophet and do not know what will happen over the next four years of Obama’s term. That being said I’ll take my best guesstimate. I've decided to split this stuff in half for the sake of space and reader's attention span. Below I'll quickly sketch out my case for Obama skepticism.

So why was I a skeptic? Because when it came down to actually talking about policies, it did not really seem that Obama was that different from the traditional American political establishment. Since his election he has surrounded himself with Clintonites (not to mention Hillary herself). During the inauguration ceremony Rev. Rick Warren was invited to lead a prayer. Rick Warren is a televangelist and anti-gay rights crusader. It was clear that the majority of Obama supporters present did not agree with the decision to have Warren “speak” as a loud thunder of boo’s came from the two million people watching. The Rev’s speech made our group of Canadians, all of whom were less critical of Obama than myself, uneasy. We were all thankful that Canadian politics has a more clearly defined separation of church and state. The selection of Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff also represents a lack of qualitative change. The appointment of this Clintonite and close “friend” of the state of Israel left Palestinian rights advocates aghast. The case can be made that a return to Clinton-era politics is a step forward when compared to the Bush era, but I think it’s clear that this is not what the majority of Obama supporters had in mind when they voted for “change”.

In terms of foreign policy he has said he will negotiate with perceived “enemies", who by the way pose no threat to Americans but maybe to American financial interests abroad. Well this is certainly a step forward from the “right to unilateral action” attitude of the Bush era. But when we look at his stated policies, do they match the rhetoric? Let’s look at Pakistan as a case study. Obama tried to “out-hawk” McCain and Hillary by saying he would be willing to bomb targets in Pakistan. This is a grossly irresponsible thing to say, and Pakistanis were astonished that Obama would posture in this way when their government continues to support America’s questionable regional interests. It would play into the hands of Pakistani Muslim fundamentalists, who actually have very little support in that country but undoubtedly that support would grow tremendously if the US was to attack. Obama’s political strategy was pretty cynical in this case. It essentially boiled down to trying to rustle up support from the traditionally Republican Hawkish Christian fundamentalists at home by acting tough, and by doing this strengthening the argument of the Muslim fundamentalists abroad. Is this really a move towards “unity”, “peace” and “change” in US foreign policy?

Ok, but he wants to get out of Iraq right? Yes, although who knows how long his exit strategy will actually take. But he also knows that support for the Iraq war is extremely minimal and he probably would not have got the masses of people out to the polls if he did not join with the anti-war movement. The thing that needs to be understood is that Obama has not fully rejected the role of the US as the “Global Cop”. He has said that he will send troops from Iraq to Afghanistan which is where they ought to be. Well it is true that Afghanistan is a less controversial war in the eyes of the American public, but that is mainly because the reasons for the invasion were not as totally and completely insane as compared to the justifications for the war in Iraq. The fact remains that the occupation of Afghanistan is continuing with no end in sight. The government headed by Karzai is corrupt, filled with the repressive fundamentalism that we are supposedly there to fight and has direct links to the opium trade. British military experts have recently warned that the war is lost and that its a hopeless fight. And just one snapshot from "on the ground" in Afghanistan: on the night of Obama’s election the US bombed another wedding party, killing 37 people, including 23 children and 10 women, all civilians.

In DC last Tuesday I spoke to a couple protesters that were handing out papers criticizing Obama's pledge to move troops to Afghanistan. They said the response from the 2 million people that were outside the capital building, was one of disbelief. Obama supporters were calling them liars for saying that the President-elect had promised thirty thousand more American troops in Afghanistan. And this is the heart of the disconnect between what people see in Obama, Obama’s rhetoric of “change” and “hope” and the under-publicized policy debates. So the question that remains is; who is the real Obama? Is it the Obama that tries to appease the right-wing through hawkish posturing and getting bigots to lead his prayers, or is it the Obama that millions of Americans have placed their hope in? I’ve presented a very bleak picture on the possibility for change and this is largely how I felt before I left for Washington on Monday evening. Stay tuned for the next segment that will be significantly less depressing and will explain why I still have hope in "Obama-mania", what Obama represents and the forces that have brought him to power.

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  1. Posted by: Cosmopolitan on Jan 26, 2009 @ 8:56pm

    Protect OBAMA !!


  2. Posted by: Kris on Jan 26, 2009 @ 9:14pm

    I was in California last Tuesday when this was going down...and at first, it was interesting to see everyone get so hyped. After hearing what the man had for breakfast hour after hour...it got annoying. Seriously. We get it. It's a big deal. The day has passed. Move on. Much greater achievements have been made for minorities in other countries...too bad they can't get the attention they deserve.

  3. Posted by: George on Jan 28, 2009 @ 9:24am

    Why are my comments being removed from this article with justification??!?

    Just goes to show what happens when both Editors of theCannon are past candidates for the Communist Party of Canada. They believe in censorship and limiting the freedom of expression if it threatens their self-centered perspective on the world.

    To be relevant to the article, it’s so much easier to be a cynic than propose solutions, eh? What do you propose Andrew “Drew” Garvie? History has shown that Communists are great at running economies into the ground, but what is your solution to revive a failing one?

  4. Posted by: George on Jan 28, 2009 @ 9:25am

    **"WITHOUT justification" I mean

  5. Posted by: John on Jan 28, 2009 @ 11:05am

    George, while thecannon welcomes our readers input, too many comments are now being posted that have no relevance to the article or are just mean spirited.

    Drew did not remove your comment or the comment that followed yours. I removed your comment (in a not another one moment) without consultation and do apologize to my fellow Cannon Committee members.

  6. Posted by: Cosmopolitan on Jan 28, 2009 @ 3:48pm

    "we wont just throw money at our problems we'll invest in what works" President Obama

    Does anybody else see the contradiction? he isn't going to throw the money at problems, but the problems will be solved by money.

  7. Posted by: theTruth on Jan 30, 2009 @ 5:54pm

    There is no contradiction, the problems will not be solved by money and if any are they will simply be short term. The problems will be solved by finding a way to decrease the greed of people and taking a less materialistic aproach to life.
    But who am I kidding that will never happen.

  8. Posted by: on Jan 31, 2009 @ 11:51am

    There is no basis behind saying people who support the Communist Party of Canada support censorship simply because communists in other countries do, and to say so is like saying all socialists believe in killing jews just because the nazis were socialists. I do not identify myself as any sort of communist, but to ignore all of the positives of any communist government ever simply because the majority have not succeeded seems pretty ignorant. If anything, a number of lessons can be learned from "Communist" countries with regards to dealing with economic hardship, such as Cuba, which has endured one of the longest and most damaging trade embargos ever, or China, today arguably the worlds greatest economy. The fact that the United States now has a more left wing and inclusive leader is a good thing for the them and for the world, but I agree in the authors estimation that real change is unlikely to occur because of it. It is still the United States, and until something is done to change a number of the problems they have at the very root of their society the likelihood of another leader, backed by the same political machine as ever, will really change all that much is pretty slim. Heres hoping though.

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