I had a very conservative Civics teacher in high school, to say the least, and my hand ached from writing notes at the end of her classes. But she did me one favor for this liberal here: she opened my eyes to just how complex our government is, how it's really structured.
Make no mistake, Obama's election was an important step, a good step to recovering from the Bush years. But it was never enough, and it won't be enough in the coming years.
The American system of government is multitiered, multi-branched, and although the Presidency is certainly a bright, shining, attractive target, it can't be the only target we aim for in our political efforts. We have to elect more Democrats in all kinds of places, promote our politics on all kinds of levels, if we want the balance of power to change in real terms.
Regardless of what fantasies we may have, the President's job is not to write law, nor to interpret it. He can prevent the bills he doesn't like from becoming law, and has in fact threatened such vetoes recently, but he can't pass laws like Congress can.
The budget, and all the laws he is constitutionally tasked with enforcing and carrying out are the products of Congress. The Republicans have done their best to stall legislative change, but have done so under America's radar, avoiding blame for it.
And all these scandals? A part of the problem is that he's been prevented from appointing the people he wants to the posts that are his to appoint to.
More importantly, we have to realize that those scandals are in part a result of Republicans abusing their oversight power.
But that's not the end of it, because while the Federal government makes the policy that affects the entire nation, we have to deal with policies on the state and local levels, too, and that is where much of the Republican Party's victories have empowered them, and disempowered us.
Simply focusing on the President, and hoping he can save us all, is just the servile sort of attitude that the Republicans make fun of when they ridicule us as followers of a political messiah. Fact is, when we talk about all the change we want, all the shifts in policy we want, much of the mechanism of that change rests at the State and Congressional level.
So, long story short, it comes down to this: Change will be harder than simply switching out one guy at the tope, and we cannot ask this man to be, as one guy so aptly put it, "The Asshole Whisperer", forcing all those mean old Republicans to get out of the way, and surrender in the face of our righteous coolness or whatever.
We have to be pragmatic, brutally efficient political warriors here. We have to lay aside some part of our ideals, and ask the question, how do we get a Republican out of this office. And then, once we have a Democrat there, we have to ask ourselves, how do we put this Democrat's back against the wall so that as a matter of practical politics, he's unlikely to do something we don't want?
We have to go at this like chess, not merely hoping that what we do makes our opponents or the people we're trying to hold accountable on our side do what we want, but leaving our targets with little other rational choice. We have to learn how to box our political opponents in as a party, not merely expect Obama to pull some masterful, Emperor Palpatine Style Sith magic on them.
We might reference LBJ or FDR, but those were people who engaged in their power plays at a time when the New Deal was either in there with big popular support, or when the New Deal had been the law of the land, the paradigm, for decades. We're dealing now with a time in which many of the old liberal priorities have been rolled back or destroyed completely, where Republican and conservative power and influence is certainly on the decline, but not yet defeated, and where the power of corporations to influence our policy is stronger than it's been since the thirties.
Obama is having to fight things that LBJ and FDR weren't having to fight, with a public divided on Conservatism, not yet as ardently against it.
It's time to look at the big picture and recognize that if we want to shift power back our way, and get what we want done, We'll be fighting that battle on multiple levels, in State and local governments, in the US Congress, and we'll be doing it against a GOP with institutional advantages, and against a corporate right-wing power base that is overwhelming in its strength.
It may be easier or simpler just to bash Obama, and criticize him for not fixing things, but as Wanda Sykes so eloquently put it, the man went to Harvard, not Hogwarts. He cannot magically undo three or four decade of GOP advance, nor fight to change our government alone. Most importantly, we should recognize that this is too complex and huge a problem to take on all in one election, or all in one fight.
It's time to focus on the practical aspects of re-seizing control of power back from the Republicans, and stop leaving some of the most important parts of furthering our agenda to chance and luck.