Yes We Can, We Did, and Now Obama's Second Term Is Our Responsibility
By Robert Scheer / commondreams.org

Yes, election night was a heck of a party and it’s great that the really bad guys lost. Karl Rove and his reactionary ilk were defeated by a new American majority that is younger, more tolerant, rainbow colored and multilingual and one in which women now trump the depressing ignorance of so many older white men. But morning in America already feels too much like a hangover. The house is still a wreck, the family is dysfunctional and there are enormous bills to pay that are not about to go away.

Supporters cheer at the end of President Barack Obama’s remarks during an election night party in Chicago. All of us suddenly sobered folks, who voted for Barack Obama because the alternative was so horridly wrong, have got to accept the moral implications of that choice. We won but at what cost? Fool me once, shame on Obama, but fool me twice and I’m the one responsible. That goes for his promises to right the economy by leveling the playing field as well as to end what Obama termed in his victory speech “a decade of war.”

It is now our fingers on the video game buttons that order the drones to kill innocent civilians, and we bear responsibility if the president maintains the Guantanamo gulag and continues to vilify Bradley Manning and Julian Assange for confronting America with its war crimes. Will he make good on his promise to hold the line on the incessant demands of the congressional defense contractor caucus or will he find yet another “good war”?

What about our expectation that Obama will be more vigilant than his vulture capitalist opponent in reining in the greed of the Wall Street crowd that has caused so much economic turmoil? The good news is that Obama, and his party, are far less beholden to the titans of the financial industry than they were the first time around. His own funding from top Wall Street firms that favored him in 2008 was way down, and across the country voters rejected the deregulation and lower tax on high roller income that the finance industry thought it was buying for its more than $400 million in campaign contributions.

“Wall Street Took a Beating at the Polls,” ran the headline in The Wall Street Journal. Referring to what he bemoaned as “Tuesday’s multiple disappointments,” columnist David Weidner added, “not the least of which is the defeat of Mitt Romney, a former private-equity executive who promised to cut or at least review financial regulation while offering more tax breaks for investors. Mr. Romney was perhaps the best hope for Wall Street this fall. He was one of their own, so tantalizingly close to the biggest trading floor of all.”

Parse the cynicism of that sentence, with its image of representative democracy as a frantic for-profit trading pit and you get what crony capitalism is all about. They thought the fix was in on bribing a compliant Congress and instead the two biggest recipients of Wall Street largess went down to defeat. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, the single most knowledgeable and effective exponent of consumer protection from financial industry scams, soundly beat Sen. Scott Brown, a champion of financial deregulation. The second main Wall Street target, Sherrod Brown, the Democratic senator from Ohio who sponsored legislation that would break up the too big to fail banks, also won decisively, defeating banker-backed Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel.

Obama didn’t go as far as the Ohio senator and Harvard law professor Warren wanted but even the much more timid steps toward financial industry accountability that the president endorsed met fierce resistance from members of the Wall Street crowd. Hopefully he will finally get the message that their unfettered greed is the problem and hardly the solution. That’s what it took for Franklin Roosevelt to become the true champion of the commonweal in his second term and it could salvage the historic legacy of this president as well.

Will the president now replace Timothy Geithner, the big bank toady, with a Treasury secretary that Elizabeth Warren, the senator for the 99 percent, can enthusiastically support? How about Sheila Bair for that post? The former chair of the FDIC has been a highly skilled guardian of the public interest with the knowledge base and social conscience required to stand up to the banking lobby and its allies in the Federal Reserve.

The 2012 election represents a profound mandate for change because it was a startling manifestation of the power as well as the presence of the long neglected “other” that is the face of the new America. That is the America that continued to stick with Obama, despite reservations over his actual governance, because the alternative was reactionary in the fullest sense of that word. Theirs is an idealistic trust—indispensable to the survival of our republic—that the president must not be permitted to now squander.

Load Comments
You Might Be Interested In
3 min · This video plugging Avaaz.org exposes the myth of a fundamental clash between Islam and the West as a problem of politics—not cultures. It received over 1.4 million views and 37,000 comments on Youtube (right up there with Star Wars Kid), and helped secure Avaaz.org as the...
3 min · Three years in the making, this riveting new documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger tells the epic story of one of the largest and most controversial legal cases on the planet. An inside look at the infamous $27 billion Amazon Chernobyl case, Crude is a real-life...
2 min · In recent months we've seen a spate of assertions that peak oil is a worry of the past thanks to so-called "new technologies" that can tap massive amounts of previously inaccessible stores of "unconventional" oil. "Don't worry, drive on," we're told.We can fall for the oil...
12 min · "I am here today to talk about a lie." That's how politics professor Caroline Heldman opened her Jan. 2013 TEDxYouth San Diego talk on the topic of sexual objectification. "I'd like to talk specifically about the lie, or the idea, that being a sex object is empowering."
2 min · Ghetto Physics: Will the Real Pimps and Ho's Please Stand Up! examines the interplay between Pimps and Ho's and how that dynamic is the simplest expression of how power is wielded in the world. Through examples culled from the Hood to Wall Street, the film shows how the same...
60 min · Kevin Phillips talks about his 2006 book, American Theocracy: the peril and politics of radical religion, oil, and borrowed money in the 21st century. From the section about American Theocracy on the Wikipedia page for Kevin Phillips: Allen Dwight Callahanstates the book's...
2 min · “The film’s scope is staggering, including its detailed outlining of BP’s origins and fingerprints across decades of unrest in Iran. By doing smart, covert reporting that shames our news media, by interviewing uncensored journalists, by speaking with locals whose health has...
13 min · Hip hop artist Immortal Technique discusses everything from his creative process in his politically charged lyrics to his views on capitalism and the two-party stronghold over American politics.
3 min · The authors of our BPA in food packaging study explain what BPA is, why we're concerned about it and how eliminating canned and packaged foods from five families' diets lowered their BPA levels in just three days.
7 min · Cornel West has some scathing words for president Obama. He must have summed up what at least a third of the country felt when they heard this little tidbit about Obama's second inauguration - but West delivers this instinctive reaction with a stinging eloquence of poetic...
52 min · The Tea Party movement has taken American politics by storm. But is this truly a populist uprising or one of the greatest feats of propaganda ever seen? Seeking to find out, Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham embeds himself in the Tea Party uprising. From men sporting...
5 min · The second installment in a Star Wars themed parody of the 2008 presidential election, featuring Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, among others.
Conor Friedersdorf · Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can't bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn't believe in Darwinian evolution, and they'll nod along. Say that you'd never vote for a politician caught using the 'n'-word, even if you agreed...
Kevin Mathews · In recent years, Facebook has become an unexpectedly crucial tool for activism. The social media platform allows activists to efficiently connect and communicate with one another in order to arrange meetings, protests and boycotts. Unfortunately, activists who once found...
Glenn Greenwald · As I’ve written about before, America’s election season degrades mainstream political discourse even beyond its usual lowly state. The worst attributes of our political culture — obsession with trivialities, the dominance of horserace “reporting,” and mindless partisan...
Ari Berman · During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama said over and over that he was running to "put an end to the Bush-McCain philosophy." Campaigning in Colorado just days before the election, Obama clearly stated his opposition to Bush-era economic policies and...
The Yes Men · Dow pays "strategic intelligence" firm to spy on Yes Men and grassroots activists. Takeaway: movement is on the right track! WikiLeaks begins to publish today over five million e-mails obtained by Anonymous from "global intelligence" company Stratfor. The emails, which reveal...
Tim Hjersted · A dangerous thing can occur when you start learning about what's really going on in the world. The problems start to seem so complex, and you're just one person, doubts begin to creep in. You sincerely want to help change the world, but from all this knowledge you start to...
It's Our Economy · The economic collapse of 2008 came at the end of three decades of stagnant wages that resulted in record household debt and made it apparent that the economy does not work for most Americans.  Even during the collapse the rich got richer and the poor got poorer as trillions...
Sydney Brownstone ·  The Harvard professor has already raised $1 million from thousands of smaller donors who he's asking to spend big money to make sure that no one can spend big money again--and instead politicians have to listen to regular people.
Like us on Facebook?