Losing hope even faster

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By Steven T. Jones
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For more than a year, I’ve been defending President Obama against his critics on the left. They’d complain that he’s enabling hyper-capitalism and the military-industrial complex, and I’ve always urged them to give him time. The problems are huge and the political climate is stormy, so we needed to keep our immediate expectations reasonable and be patient.

But I’m beginning to lose hope.

The escalation of war in the Afghanistan was his third strike. First, he bailed out Wall Street, preserving an inequitable and unsustainable economic system. Then he abandoned his past support for a single-payer health care system, propping up the costly and corrupt insurance-based system. And then he decided to perpetuate the dangerous delusion that our military can make the world safe and secure and turn Afghanistan into a functional, modern state.

And now, as icing on the cake, it looks like Obama is backpedaling on his Afghanistan exit strategy and working with Senate Democrats to give up on the public health care option, leaving a “reform” bill whose most notable characteristic is that we’ll all be required to buy overly expensive health insurance from a profit-driven corporation.

Hope – it was nice while it lasted.

Obama’s staunch defenders are still out there. And sure, he has done lots of good things, and he’s far better than John McCain would have been. And his perspective and speeches are a huge improvement on those of George W. Bush. But, like Bill Clinton before him, Obama is getting the big, important things totally wrong, mistakes made all the worse by using rhetoric of hope and reform.

Capitalism is running amuck – wrecking the planet, feeding off workers, corrupting our social and political systems, stealing resources from future generations – secure in the knowledge that government will save it from failure, a guarantee that American citizens no longer have. Obama even acknowledges some of this, but he still pursues policies and appointments that hinder real reform.

On the campaign trail, Obama eloquently spoke of pursuing peace and diplomacy and about the limitations of American military power. Sure, he said that he’d shift resources from Iraq to Afghanistan, but he already did that in the spring. And now, with this major escalation of the war – which he justified with Bush-like manipulations of 9/11 – he’s giving our military the lofty goal of the “security of the world,” as he put it last week.

I wanted to believe in Obama, even as I said the people’s movements needed to strongly push him to do the right thing. But now, I’m starting to feel naïve, as if all my critics were right and that I was foolish to feel hope in the first place. Is this when hope dies?