Yesterday, the House voted to provide subsidies for summertime children’s lunches only to “rural areas”. That wasn’t even a dog whistle, it was an out and out statement of racism.
A few days ago, a New Hampshire police commissioner not only called President Barack Obama a “n***er”, but defended his statement, saying that the President fit his definition for one. He refused to resign until just a couple of days ago.
Today, Mark Cuban admitted to “biases”. He could cross the street—in what I’m sure is a gated, nearly all-white community—if he saw a young black man in a hoodie coming towards him. Of course, if that young black man in a hoodie had a 42-inch vertical leap, I’m sure he’d take the time to sign him to a contract.
It seems as if the past few weeks have seen an explosion of insanity. As Pres. Obama succeeds in the face of unparalleled obstruction—Obamacare, the economy, isolating Russia—certain sectors of this country have decided on a scorched earth policy. If they can’t exercise untrammeled power, if the country elects and re-elects Pres. Obama, then burn everything, like Russians retreating before Napoleon.
It can be forgiven if one gets to feel downtrodden. The forces arrayed against progress are not minor. They have almost unlimited funding. They drive media narratives. They more or less own five Justices on the Supreme Court. The scenario would prove daunting and depressive to even the hardiest souls.
We expect things to be easy. We elect a leader. The leader brings monumental change. We rejoice, without our lives being interrupted too much, or at all.
This tweet, however, exemplifies what 2008 and 2012 really meant:
I said on election night, 2008 "My biggest fear is that our flaky left will think we just won something other than breathing room."—
(@Shoq) May 22, 2014
Pres. Obama’s election did represent a sea change. But change is never easy. It’s never simple. And it’s never accomplished without work. We’ve seen that for the past six years. The forces of inertia and reaction will not surrender power easily or willingly. They will fight every inch, house to house, losing, yes, but inflicting severe damage where they can. We can see this in the fact that Senate Republicans filibustered a tax-cut bill, one which enjoyed broad bipartisan support, simply to deny Pres. Obama a Rose Garden signing ceremony.
Too many on our side heard the President say “I am the change you’ve been waiting for.” He said nothing of the sort. I’ve encountered it among some of my friends. “Well, he promised to change everything.” When in fact what he said is “YOU are the change you’ve been waiting for.” He promised to work for the people of this country. He promised to bring humanity back to government. But he didn’t promise that he could do all these things on his own. He not only urged his supporters to hold his feet to the fire, but to stay active and hold the feet of all politicians to that same fire.
Of course, holding 535 mini-barons to account is much more difficult than focusing on the one king. Thus Pres. Obama is assailed from all sides for perceived failings, while the Legislative Branch, even though it’s approved of by only 11% of the electorate, sails on unperturbed. It is at this realization that I think we deserve what we get.
But does an honor’s student in inner-city Los Angeles deserve to be stripped of a summer lunch program?
Does a hard working mother in Texas who falls into the income gap deserve to be denied expanded Medicaid?
Do the long-term unemployed deserve to be thrown out on the street, to swell the ranks of the homeless and hopeless?
When it gets to be too much, we have to remember: WE are the change. Power surrenders nothing without struggle. And despite the rumblings of the Cliven Bundys of the world, it’s his ilk which hold the power, and have for most of the Republic’s history.
For a while after the New Deal, power was wise enough to accede to reforms to keep the system going. But now it has decided to go for it all, and impose a sort of banana republic on the world’s oldest democracy.
Will we let the powerful do this? Will we let this 200 year old experiment die, killed by greed, fear, and apathy?
President Obama’s entire project has been to re-energize active citizenship. A democracy is only as good as its electorate. When the electorate is apathetic and ignorant, the powerful have full sway.
Over the next few months we have to show that this experiment still has life in it. The the Kochs and the Trumps of the world don’t have the final say, that their words are worth exactly the same as ours.
When it gets to be too much, that’s when we have to reach inside, and just be witnesses. We see them, and we will pass judgment.
When it gets to be too much, just remember: it can get far worse. And it’s in our power to prevent that.