Drew Westen’s Op Ed in today’s New York Times (What Happened to Obama) is a must read.
Paraphrasing won’t do; only quoting: “When Barack Obama rose to the lectern on Inauguration Day, the nation was in tatters. Americans were scared and angry. The economy was spinning in reverse. Three-quarters of a million people lost their jobs that month. Many had lost their homes, and with them the only nest eggs they had. Even the usually impervious upper middle class had seen a decade of stagnant or declining investment, with the stock market dropping in value with no end in sight. Hope was as scarce as credit.”
His suggested alternative for the January 2009 inaugural address is a barn burner: “I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and your futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results.”
With the economy grinding to a halt, foreclosures still at historic highs, unemployment stubbornly high, the stock market either falling dramatically or swinging wildly, little appears to be different two and a half years after that Inauguration Day, when the President actually gave an uninspiring, antiseptic speech. Why that might be the case is the real point of Mr. Westen’s piece, the conclusion of which is worth quoting in full:
“But the arc of history does not bend toward justice through capitulation cast as compromise. It does not bend when 400 people control more of the wealth than 150 million of their fellow Americans. It doesn’t not bend when the average middle-class family has seen its income stagnate over the last 30 years while the richest 1 percent has seen its income rise astronomically. It does not bend when we cut the fixed incomes of our parents and grandparents so hedge fund managers can keep their 15 percent tax rates. It does not bend when only one side in negotiations between workers and their bosses is allowed representation. And it does not bend when, as political scientists have shown, it is the opinions of the wealthy that predict the votes of the Senate. The arc of history can bend only so far before it breaks.”