‘Hope’ and ‘change’ a year later

Posted on 11 Sep 2009 at 12:46am
By Paul Varnell Pvarnell@aol.com

As the ’08 presidential campaign, Obama looked good, even to a Libertarian. My, how things change

I normally try not to be caught up in the passions of the quadrennial national election. I read about it, but becoming emotionally involved is like rooting for a sports team: Nothing you do or feel is going to affect the outcome the least bit.

But I confess that in last November’s election I had a mild preference for Obama.

Such a confession is not likely to be very damaging to me: Most of the people I know favored Obama. But it is a departure from my usual equanimity about national politics, and it feels just a little shameful nonetheless.

To be sure, I did not vote for Obama. I voted, as I always do, for the Libertarian Party candidate, former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr who, however, ran an almost invisible campaign, almost as if he did not much want the job. But the libertarian philosophy of civil liberties and small, non-intrusive government is what I believe, so I voted for it.

Part of my preference for Obama was based on an aversion to the person and policies of George Bush. Personally, Bush came across as a physically awkward, illiterate ("nucular") and resistantly ignorant but smirkingly self-confident man. And his militarily aggressive foreign policy, out-of-control government spending and intrusive government data collection were the most unlibertarian policies I could imagine.

And Bush’s support for the Federal Marriage Amendment didn’t help.

Plus, Obama was an obviously bright, articulate and intelligent man who wouldn’t make us wince when we heard him on the radio or saw him on television.

But another part of my preference for Obama was the hope that the election of a president perceived as black might help portions of the African-American community assuage their long-standing sense of aggrievement over a legacy of slavery, segregation and discrimination.

It was probably a vain hope: Shiite Muslims are still aggrieved over something that happened 1,400 years ago. But it seemed worth a try.

Poor John McCain, a decent and intelligent man who decades ago seemed to have mild libertarian sympathies, (he was, after all, from the state of Barry Goldwater) seemed to have rejected those and adopted many of the positions of George Bush. At least, he never really separated his policies — or even seemed to try to— from George Bush’s. And he never seemed to realize that along about August, the leading issue of the campaign ceased to be terrorism and became the deteriorating state of the economy.

Nor did he seem to grasp the nation’s growing hostility to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate made me doubt the seriousness of his candidacy.

To all this, Obama offered vague promises of "change" and "hope" into which people could and did read their own extremely diverse desires and aspirations.
But it was enough. Obama was the anti-Bush. Obama even signaled some modest progress on gay issues.

To be sure, it was fairly clear that Obama’s "change" and "hope" would involve substantial, not to say massive, new government spending, higher taxes or greater deficits, and more government control of the economy. I hardly favored these things, but the trade-offs for a change from Bush seemed tolerable. After all, Bush was a big spender too — of money and of blood.

But as it has turned out, there has been less "change" than one might have had "hope" for.

Expensive government health-care expansion has taken center stage. As U.S. military forces are slowly — all too slowly — being withdrawn from Iraq they are being increased in Afghanistan, an even greater quagmire than Iraq has been.
There has been little sign of progress — not even preliminary study groups — on gay issues.

The economy was pulled along in the most expensive way possible, and sent signals to corporations in the future that the government will protect them from the results of foolish policies and economic failure.

Nothing much I had "hope" for.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 11, 2009.

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