2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Is Obamamania Misguided?


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David Spett
1/22/08 U-Wire 00:00:00


Barack Obama deserves credit: His campaign has generated incredible optimism and excitement about changing America. The message has resonated so strongly that even Hillary Clinton has adopted the change mantra in place of her old, less-successful buzzword: experience.

All this desire to improve our troubled nation gives us reason to be hopeful. But I fear that much of Obamamania is misguided, particularly at Northwestern, where jumping aboard the Ill. senator's bandwagon seems like the latest craze.

My main concern is that many support Obama because of what he represents, not what he would accomplish. His rhetoric is exemplary in its ability to inspire, and electing the first black president would be a proud moment for America, with our shameful history of racism. But a great orator is not the same as a great president, and electing the first black (or woman) is, I'm afraid, merely symbolic. Our nation's problems need more than symbolism. Obama's policy proposals, a more accurate indicator of the president he would be, are less progressive than those of his Democratic opponents. This concerns me because many of his supporters see him as more change-driven than Hillary Clinton. At least in terms of domestic policy, this characterization is untrue.

Consider Obama's plan for universal healthcare, which isn't universal at all. Among Democrats, it's the only plan that creates universal access to insurance without mandating it. Since healthy individuals are more likely to opt out, the lack of a mandate would increase the cost of insurance for everyone else. Obama's economic plans also fall to the right of his opponents' by focusing more on tax relief than on aid and subsidies. While it may be unrealistic to expect candidates to implement all of their proposals, details still say a lot about a candidate's vision.

Obama has criticized his Democratic opponents from the right on health insurance mandates, and he has parroted Republicans in taking Clinton to task for not recognizing the "Social Security crisis." I'm no Hillary fan, but she's right on this issue: There is no crisis.

Overall, Obama's rhetoric of bringing together drug and insurance companies to make policy decisions at a "big table" strikes me as naive. Reform goes against the interests of these powerful entities, so why have them participate in policy making? Change requires an FDR figure who will fight corporate interests and the super-rich.

Obama is infinitely better than any Republican, and I don't mean to say he cannot or will not change America if elected. But change requires more than a president with a new vision, because once politicians obtain power, they tend to listen more to their donor base than their voter base.

For true reform to occur, millions of Americans will need to stop thinking of politics as simply supporting a candidate and pulling a lever in a booth. We need to keep constant pressure on our elected officials to do what is right, because moneyed interests that oppose change will always aim to counter our will.


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