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Common Dreams - December 11, 2019

"In 1962, John F. Kennedy said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." In a time already as dangerously volatile and divided as ours, with so many people hurting, perhaps it is time for the Obamas of the world to step aside and let some peaceful revolution happen for a change."

When I read President Obama’s comments last month cautioning the country against radical change, saying “the average American doesn’t think we have to tear down the system” and “they just don’t want to see crazy stuff,” my first thought was of Dr. Martin Luther King’s clarion call for justice encapsulated in the title of his 1964 book “Why We Can’t Wait.” In this current era of the greatest wealth inequality in history, how might Dr. King respond to President Obama, when he calls on us to reject radical change?

Although no names were mentioned, it was clear Obama was referring to Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and there’s no question that radical plan #1 under discussion is universal health care. The second thought that ran through my mind was of Obama shortly after the historic 2008 Presidential election, when he introduced the campaign for his signature Affordable Care Act by telling the nation that if we were to design a healthcare system from scratch, then single-payer would be the best way to go, but that our nation wasn’t ready for that so he’d have to work within the existing system. There would be no debate in Congress on single-payer, even though polls at the time showed upwards of 65% of Americans in favor of such a plan.

And here he is, ten years later, telling us that we’re still not ready for radical change—you know, "crazy stuff" like the type of universal medical coverage provided in every other industrialized nation in the world.

As Obama inserts himself in the 2020 election - with some news reports suggesting he may engage further to help prevent a Sanders nomination—he is fast becoming a symbol of the divide within the Democratic party, between those who caution against (or fear) real change and those who are long tired of waiting. Even Obama’s policy record has become a split screen. Some of his fans—no doubt also longing for a President who can speak complete English sentences and not start a new scandal every week—reminisce about what they consider his bold progressive achievements, usually starting with the ACA. More skeptical observers point to his expansion of drone warfare, continued bombing of the Middle East, record deportations, record wealth inequality, bankers and torturers getting off scot-free, broken promises on the public option and GMOs and say, no, not so much.

One might think a factor that could unite folks on the left is an understanding of the corrupting influence of money in politics, but in that regard Obama appears as Teflon-coated as Ronald Reagan ever was with his supporters. When Obama ran for President one of the largest sources of contributions to his campaign was the infamous Wall St. firm Goldman-Sachs. He started his drive for the ACA by capitulating completely to pharmaceutical companies (there would be no negotiations over drug prices), and to insurance companies by promoting what was originally a Republican plan. He entered his post-Presidential tenure by immediately accepting lucrative speaking gigs from Wall St. companies. How can it mean nothing, at a time when three individual Americans possess more wealth than half the country, to be taking advice from someone who gladly accepts money from and hangs out with the 1%? (Not surprisingly, his recent comments were made at a meeting of Democratic Party “mega-donors.”)

The inability or unwillingness to “follow the money” continues in the current nomination fight, as Mayor Pete Buttigieg has risen in the eyes of many on the left. (Or to be more accurate, many white people on the left, since he polls at about 0% among African-Americans.) ..
Read full commentary at Common Dreams