What Happened on the Way to the Inauguration?

The transition to a new administration held promise of a change in leadership and direction for our foundering economy and deeply stupefied and polarized population. Running on a platform of hope and change, Barack Obama promised a new direction for America. Now, six weeks after the election and a month before the inauguration, the change we were counting on seems a remote possibility at best, at worst, a nasty deception that was foisted on a public starved for a chance to create the lives we as Americans have been led to believe were available to us.

President-elect Obama has chosen a cabinet, most from President Clintons right-of-center team. Many of these Clinton retreads have even drifted farther into the pockets of Wall Street since their time in the White House. He has traded former Chevron board member Condi Rice for current Chevron Board member Jim Jones. He has chosen financial sector power player and former Clinton staffer Rahm Emmanuel as his chief of staff. His pick to head the Department of the Interior is a big oil and coal proponent and his Agriculture pick is a supporter of GMO’s and the fantasy of corn ethanol. This is not change; this is the status quo on steroids.

During the campaign, the dogmatic democrats and the liberal folks hoping and praying for change continually espoused the line “we have to get him elected then we will hold his feet to the fire.” A huge groundswell of folk put their hearts and souls into what became a unique and unstoppable campaign. Unprecedented fundraising and internet organizing combined with the collapse of the economy carried Barack Obama to victory in an electoral landslide. Now Obama’s blueprint is coming into focus and all those who were so sure that change was at hand should be screaming bloody murder.

“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” This quote by Abraham Lincoln provides an insight into what has happened to our country. The moneyed interests that have extracted most of the wealth from the middle class and fomented a divisive and polarized condition in our society have used their ad agencies, corporate media and wealth to create an illusion of change while keeping the same players in power. When it came time to hold the president-elects feet to the fire, it was done. Not by the forward looking folks who put this man in office, rather, the ruling class who control all things political handed him his cabinet picks and industry and big business are cheering “his” choices.

He has backed off his promise to implement a windfall profits tax on big oil. He has decided not to eliminate the tax breaks for the richest among us. He has decided not to leave Iraq on the schedule he promised. He has supported what has now become an $8.5 trillion dollar give-away to the same people responsible for crashing the largest and most productive economy on Earth. He is talking about a massive expansion of the already bloated military.

If you’re wondering what happened, look no farther than the talking points used by the conservative pundits during the election process. They said Obama had the most liberal record in the Senate. They said he would bring socialism to America. They created a climate of fear in their base about what would happen to our country if this “Socialist” were elected. They had us believing we were truly looking at a change.

A close look at his policy proposals showed that his positions on the issues were not “far left” as stated. The recurring dialog of the faithful said that when he was elected he would swing gently left and bring real change to our nation. It now appears that the swing was hard to the right and the folks who counted on being heard during this transition will be looking for real change for at least another 4 years.

Again, Abraham Lincoln “It is the eternal struggle between two principles, right and wrong. Throughout the world it is the same spirit that says you toil and work and earn bread and I’ll eat it.” Today, the corporations and their minions in Washington are eating your bread.

While it is still possible that Mr. Obama will somehow lead the powerful, positional cabinet personalities he has selected and create an Obama administration that will do good for our country, with each pick of an entrenched Washington insider that outcome becomes less likely. If he does not do this, how can our nation survive? Quoting Lincoln again, “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.” The last election was an exercise of our constitutional right to amend the government. It does not appear that we were diligent enough in vetting the choices and it now appears who we chose will not manifest the change we were so desperately seeking.

Mr. Obama seems to have decided not to value and regard nature as anything but a savings account to be liquidated or a grocery store to be plundered. All for the benefit of those entrenched powers that are the masters of Wall Street. How much more of this can our nation take? If the incoming administration continues, in general, the failed environmental, economic, social, military, and foreign policies we have endured for decades, it may be time to look at Mr. Lincoln’s second option and start over.

TIMOTHY G. HERMACH is director of the Native Forest Council in Eugene, Oregon. He can be reached at: zerocut1@forestcouncil.org