January 20, 2010

Obama, Year One: The Dark Night Returns

By Robb Witmer Full  |  January 20, 2010

"Bush returns to Texas with 'a sense of accomplishment'"
-Headline in the Dallas Morning News, January 21, 2009

The crowds began to form shortly after the 4 a.m. Last Call was beginning to clear the bars. They stood in bitter, wet cold and pre-dawn darkness, hoping to get a good look at our last best chance for American Redemption.

By the time the horde numbered two million, the familiar frosty Washington bitterness was almost unnoticeable, pierced by the pure electricity in the air, the Hope and Change we'd only heard about in TV commercials was now a tangible, visceral rumbling in our guts.

Obama told us that voting was not enough, that forming mobs millions deep, still, was not enough. The heavy lifting lies ahead. "Starting today," he said, "we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America."

Bush escaped by helicopter, with $700 billion in his back pocket and a deep feeling of satisfaction in the knowledge that it didn't matter for shit which poor sap was moving in after him. The mechanisms for Real Change were dismantled long ago, the parts now stored deep in the shed on Cheney's CIA-adjacent Washington compound, guarded by Blackwater goons, no doubt.

Still, there couldn't have been a more frightening image to the Power Structure; Literally millions of people gathered at the fulcrum of American political authority, asserting their position that the way things have been done for the last thirty years are Wrong, and Evil, and Must Stop Now.

A year later, those millions of people have scattered, seeking to be alone as the inevitable creep of disappointment smothered them. The story of Obama's first year isn't a story about left v. right, conservative v. liberals or even Democrats v. Republicans.

It's the story of Nothing getting done in America. The Inaugural Mob, as assembled on January 20, 2009, probably didn't have an escalation of the war in Afghanistan in mind when they voted for him.

Or that the financial system, so thoroughly fucked it took getting bailed-out by the broke-ass American people to keep it from collapsing, has had no new restrictions placed on it. Or that Obama would put the same exact goddamn thieves who got us into the mess in charge of getting us out.

Or that it would take a 60-vote supermajority to get a shitty health care bill passed. Almost passed.

Some of us even had a hard time imagining a world in which Bush, Cheney and the scumbags around them got to keep their status as free men.

Obama was, after all, the Test. Is there still a political tool available to exercise the will of the people? Can a president oppose the Status Quo and still get anything accomplished? Does the president have any real power, anyway?

The answer was quickly obvious, that we were not going into the business of Remaking the American Dream, instead doomed to be caught in the jaws of Karl Rove's Permanent Campaign till the very end. There's money to be made, and the Dream can be outsourced to China.

The smoky spectre of Bill Hicks haunts my dreams these days, and it's always with his old story of a newly elected president...

"I have this feeling that whoever's elected president, ... when you win, you go into this smoky room with the twelve industrialist, capitalist scumfucks that got you in there, and this little screen comes down... and it's a shot of the Kennedy assassination from an angle you've never seen before, which looks suspiciously off the grassy knoll.... And then the screen comes up, the lights come on, and they say to the new president, 'Any questions?'

"Just what my agenda is."

This year, in the wee hours of a brisk winter morning, the National Mall is empty. The bars closed hours ago and most of us have gone to sleep or are fighting the Insomnia with drugs, more beer and SportsCenter over and over and over again. If we'd taken the time to look around during the stumble home, we would have noticed that it's just as dark now as it was before.


Robb Witmer Full likes most of Batman's early work.
@robbwitmer