President Obama’s recent speech at a small town Kansas high school was probably specially intended to stir discussion. With his focus on inequality as “the defining issue of the time,” the speech was largely in line with the President’s recent rhetorical shift towards populism and relative leftism. It seems that Obama is taking a stand. He is done attempting some elusive concept of “centrism.” Done talking about reaching out to Republicans who can’t resist calling him a socialist no matter what he does. Obama has finally accepted that meeting them half way is a lost cause. Congratulations. Better late than never. Is it coincidence that his re-election bid is less than one year away? I think not. If we are to judge by comparing his pre- and post-election levels of support, the man is a far better campaigner than legislator. This speech is probably the latest evidence of such.
President Obama has a knack for saying one thing and doing another. In my opinion, this is why he has so perfected the art of pissing everyone off. While his Administration has been, in terms of policy, one of the most business friendly of the modern era, his consistently anti-“Big Business,” Pelosi-esque rhetoric has convinced sensitive CEO’s everywhere that he is the devil incarnate. His healthcare plan, pitched as a strike against the corporate monopolization of medicine, will probably end up most benefiting the pharmaceutical and insurance companies he so derided. If Obama actually follows his Osawatomie speech with a shift in policy, un-prodded, I will be surprised.
But then again, none of us should expect otherwise. Of course he is a political animal. You can’t spell “politician” without “politics.” And yet, for those of you who agree with the message, or at least sentiment, of the Occupy Movement, Obama’s latest talking points are probably justification for encouragement. The latest evidence that we have in fact “changed the conversation.” Still, I let out a short groan when Democrats released their latest offer to Congressional Republicans concerning the Payroll Tax and extended UI Benefits, proposing to pay for these vital programs with a tax increase on those earning more than $1,000,000 a year. Because it would be fantastic indeed if the Republicans went along with this. If nothing else, the Democrats now feel empowered to play the Republicans at their own game, that is, holding a gun on the rest of us, and daring their counterparts to let them pull the trigger. If the agreement doesn’t pass, as I’m becoming increasingly sure that it won’t, the Republicans may well hold the blame in the long run. But in the short run, millions of people will suffer. A perfect example of a political system that has become absolutely incapable of addressing the needs of its citizens. How did we go so wrong? What hope is there going forward?
Maybe, just maybe, it’s the Occupy Movement. You can now add the President to the list of people who believe that we are having an effect. And while he may not be the most astute observer of the national mentality, he is most certainly an important one. This is a terrible time for everyone, politicians included. No matter what we do, things probably aren’t going to get any better for some years yet. We should take these latest developments for what they are: evidence that Occupiers do indeed have people’s attention. Now that the camps are gone, this is our chance to use it. It’s time to move on, and take direct action against those issues that affect Americans everywhere, even in the red states. Things like the foreclosure crisis, student loan debt, and runaway healthcare costs. Instances of recurring pain at its most absurd. Because the politicians like Obama, who may well sympathize, in that well-protected chamber deep down in their hearts, will perhaps find it increasingly difficult to justify their sanctioning of heavy-handed police crackdowns based on an out-dated faith in law and order. Perhaps, then, right downs of mortgages, taxes on the wealthy, re-regulation of big banks, and investment in infrastructure, will enter into consideration. Perhaps we a new New Deal may seem less fantastic. Obama could yet be the FDR of the 21st Century if we force him to it. But we have to force him to it. So far, the polling booth hasn’t worked. The traditional avenues haven’t worked. Sadly, Occupying may now be our best, and indeed our only alternative.