One of the things I learned about governing from watching The West Wing is that you have to trust the people in the room. If you’re not on the inside, then you don’t have all of the information being considered when making any given decision. When you agree with and believe in the intentions and values of the people in said room, that trust comes much easier than, say, when you know the room is filled with crackpots and evildoers.
Barack Obama is my Jed Bartlet. I know a lot of the decisions made in the room are complex and nuanced beyond the public’s comprehension, and so I put my trust in his intentions and values that I believe to be true, good, measured and even cogent.
Some of the issues, however, seem very clear cut to my eyes, as well as to the eyes of experts to and fro. They are made ever more lucid due to the campaign confabulation promising certain swift remedy. And, yet, we are finding ourselves once again ensnared in the politics versus policy debacle wherein ideas sounded really good on the campaign trail, even solidified and/or pacified the base, but the actual enactment is scurried out of the room to a time and place to be determined at the pleasure of the President.
Reinstituting military tribunals, not releasing the torture photos, continuing indefinite detentions, not prosecuting war crimes, not repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, not repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, approving 42 of 48 mountaintop mining permits… all of these things just seem so blatantly wrong to me.
To be sure, as long as Dick Cheney is out there slamming Obama, I know he’s doing some things right. And he definitely is, such as ending the practice of torture, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, revoking Big Oil land leases, hiring lots of women, gays and minorities. He’s no George W. Bush no matter how the PUMAs and conservative pundits try to spin it.
However, if he continues to drag his feet and even – forgive the term – flip flop on major liberal issues, the crumbs he’s tossing aren’t going to be enough to pacify the voters who swept him into office on the promise of change and a different kind of governance.
And the fallout could be not just a one-term presidency, but a total disengagement of the populace. The 2000 and 2004 elections did much to disenfranchise the already incredibly low percentage of voters. (The U.S. averages about 50% of eligible voters turning out.) Obama did much to turn that on its head, registering record numbers of new voters. If he doesn’t deliver on his promises, I fear those folks will slink back into the shadows, never to reemerge.