Here’s a quote from the inauguration speech:
“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions – who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.”
This is exactly the kind of language that Naomi Klein speaks to in her book The Shock Doctrine, when neoliberals use moments of crisis to impose a massive, radical capitalist agenda, often within the span of months. With words just like this, they have dismantled public infrastructures and social safety nets across the world, systems that took decades of hard struggle to build.
Now, Obama is using these words, and dropping all sorts of progressive code words and references. And, UNLIKE, most of the neoliberals in the past, Obama actually has a huge mandate for radical changes. So, here’s to hoping that he’ll take a cue from the right and just bombard us with all sorts of programs and proposals.
Even if many of those programs don’t pan out (much like FDR’s original New Deal proposals), the psychological effect on our country of a “shock and awe” of hope could really electrify things. And with Obama’s new “Organizing For America” structure, in which he hopes to keep is entire grassroots campaign mobilized to push for his agenda, he is in a perfect position to resist any bigwigs who try to stop him. EVEN MORE, those bigwigs are cowering and losing money! They need bailouts even to keep plodding along. He really is in a perfect position to push through some great stuff.
Will he? Probably not. Liberals and progressives are notoriously bad at seizing initiative. But this is the first day of his presidency, so at least I get to hope so.
But, some good signs: He wants a stimulus plan of $900 billion dollars, passed by mid-February. That will supposedly have zero earmarks. Wow! Supposedly he’ll give an executive order to close Gitmo within the week. Supposedly there are a bunch of executive orders on their way regarding surveillance and the constitution and such. Here’s to hoping.
Maybe, for once, it won’t only be the right wing that’s good at seizing initiative in a crisis.