Feeling hoodwinked, Obama backers? Join the club

December 10, 2008|By RON SMITH

I warned them, but they didn't want to believe me. I understand the feelings of the people who consider themselves liberals or progressives and thought that electing Barack Obama would mean the establishment of an administration to their liking - replete with the appointments of actual liberals/progressives to top spots in his incoming administration - and who now are beginning to suspect they've been snookered.

Welcome to the club of the politically disenchanted. I joined a few years back when it became apparent that the actuality of the Bush administration would be extremely different from the one promised. Instead of the "more humble foreign policy" that George W. Bush pledged during the 2000 presidential campaign, we got the post-9/11 Bush Doctrine of preventive wars to be fought against all putative enemies of the United States - presumably until all possible threats to American hegemony had been removed and the entire world remade in our image. Instead of limited government, we got unlimited government. Instead of spending curbs, we got years of spending money we don't have without President Bush vetoing any of the appropriations bills sent to him from Congress. For actual conservatives, the only solace was the appointments of relatively conservative judges to the federal bench. While that's important, it's not enough by itself to justify jubilation.

The Web site Politico published a piece Monday listing the growing concerns of liberals about the president-elect stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices. "Obama has reversed pledges," say the writers, "to immediately repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and take on Big Oil. He's hedged his call for a quick drawdown in Iraq. And he's stocking his White House with anything but stalwarts of the left."

As I have said repeatedly, Barack Obama isn't what he appeared to be in the eyes of those on the left as he waged his brilliant campaign to win power over us. He's a politician, after all, and not one so far out of the mainstream as to be denied the presidency. If he were seen as a genuine threat to the interests that underwrite ambitious politicians, he'd have never been allowed to cross the finish line as the winner. If you wonder why the politicians in Washington shoveled all that bailout cash to Wall Street firms, open your eyes to the fact that these firms were some of the biggest contributors to the campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the securities and investment industry contributed about $10 million to Mr. Obama, $7 million to Mr. McCain and more than $101 million to all federal candidates and political parties in the 2008 election cycle, 56 percent of it to Democrats (a switch from their favoring of Republicans for most of the last 10 years).

They pay this money on the expectation that the recipients, the elected politicians and their appointees, will not act contrary to their industry's interests. You might call the bundled contributions "tribute," because that's what they are. The Republicans get their share, smaller now that they'll be out of power, and the Democrats get theirs, larger now that they'll be in control.

Back in 2006, voters swept Democrats into control of Congress, expecting that they would force an end to the Iraq war. Disillusion wasn't long in coming, and it's hard on the heels of this change in administrations as well. Barack Obama is in a position where he must choose whom to disappoint: the progressives or the powers-that-be. If you're the kind of person who likes to make a wager, which group is the better to bet on - the more likely to have its interests served? Meantime, the economy shrivels, and the president-elect says things are going to get worse before they get better. If that's the case, we'll all soon be worrying about more important things than ideological fidelity.

Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090 WBAL-AM and WBAL.com. His column appears Wednesdays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is rsmith@wbal.com.

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