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A belief in hope, but a commitment to vigilance


Looking harder than skin-deep at Obama
by Anita Rios, Co-convener of the Green Party of Ohio

anita_riosAs a person of color who has been called a “nigger,” and not in that post eighties way that seeks to emulate “gangsta” culture and implies that “we are tough,” but in that vicious way that is indescribably and deliberately hurtful, I cannot look at Barack Obama and not feel uplifted.

I really did not think America was capable of putting race aside and electing a black man president. Now having Barack Obama serving in that position I want desperately for him to succeed and for the hopes of those who elected him to be realized. I know many people who have never had any faith in the political process registered and voted because of Barack Obama and I think that is a very good first step. But itís only a first step and without knowledgeable follow up, itís a relatively empty gesture. Without innovative policy changes from the Obama administration, the hope and change he championed will be nothing more than good campaign slogans.

Hope is no substitute for vigilance and it is imperative as citizens we remain in≠volved beyond Election Day and become knowledgeable advocates for the changes we know must come.

I will be elated if by the Obama election we realize an American society: where health care is a right, where no child is denied a quality education because of income, where workers are not forced to compete in a race to the bottom, and where we once and for all reject war as a tool for resolving disputes. My investment in politics is an in≠vestment in making our communities, our countries, and our world a better place and I will support any leader who moves us closer to that better world.

I did not support Obama during the presidential campaign because he did not support the changes I feel are both necessary and doable. He did not support universal health care, his education reform policies were vague and inadequate, and his pledge to pull our troops from Iraq was balanced by his pledge to focus Amer≠icaís military might in Afghanistan. As a candidate Obama stated he would be willing to bomb Pakistan and now as President he has done just that. His positions on many issues only sounded good when contrasted with the appalling policies of the Bush administration or those of his Republi≠can opponent John McCain.

In my estimation, Obamaís campaign spoke of change but offered very little substantive change. Obama may very well end some of the most egregious constitutional abuses of the Bush administration and he may close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. But it is doubtful that he will have the objectivity or the political will to clean house on Wall Street, take on the health in≠surance companies, or to reign in the military and prison industrial complexes.

Sadly, on some of the rare occasions that I heard progressive pundits address the shortcomings of the Obama campaign rhetoric, they claimed that he had to take those positions in order to get elected but would do better once he was in office. Some of those so-called progressives also claimed it was necessary to compromise, in particular on health insurance issues, in order to get any movement at all. I cannot believe those so-called progressives will be effective advocates for change with so many of them hoping that Obama was playing politics as usual and not truthfully stating his positions in the campaign, or that he shouldnít even put issues such as universal health care on the table. Some of the most strident and vigilant critics of the Bush administration are far too enamored of Obama to challenge him.

The early actions of the Obama administration, from a progressive point of view, are not very hopeful. He has filled his cabinet with some of the very people who had a hand in crafting our current economic and foreign policies. But this is pretty much consistent with the Obama campaign rhetoric. I am certainly not surprised. Despite being genuinely glad an African Amer≠ican man has been elected president and genuinely respectful of the hopes of the millions of Obama supporters, I will continue to scrutinize the actions of the Obama ad≠ministration with the same vigilance always necessary of any citizen seeking to play a meaningful role in self-governance.

Without innovative policy changes from the Obama administration, the hope and change he championed will be nothing more than good campaign slogans.

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