The two faces of Barack Obama

With President Obama running for a second term, I cannot help but wonder which Obama we will see as the reelection campaign heats up over the coming year.

In 2008, we saw Obama the Candidate, who promised us change we can believe in. He inspired and energized us.

Now many of us on the progressive end of the political spectrum are dealing with two+ years of disappointments from Obama the President.

We’re still holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

We’re still wasting money on unnecessary military operations.

The unemployment rate is still much too high.

The bankers are still raking in obscene salaries and bonuses as home foreclosures continue.

The rich still enjoy their Bush-era tax cuts (which are now Obama-era tax cuts).

And our Social Security and Medicare are on the line as possible bargaining chips in the ongoing budget wars.

This is not change I can believe in.

Perhaps Obama feels trapped in a position where he has no choice but to “negotiate” with the right. But negotiation, by definition, is supposed to be at least two-sided, with some give-and-take on all sides.

So has Obama pushed back strongly enough? I haven’t heard enough words in his speeches to convince me that he has. I just keep hearing him use the word “compromise” while what he actually does is capitulate.

Still, next year, we the voting public will have to choose between Obama and his still-unknown Republican challenger.

More progressive Democrats have proven unelectable in the past, so we won’t see a Dennis Kucinich or a Russ Feingold reaping any kind of surprise overthrow victory at next year’s Democratic National Convention. And a progressive running as a third-party candidate (remember Ralph Nader?) would only potentially steal enough votes from Obama to reward us with a President Bachmann, a President Perry, or (at best) a President Romney.

So will Obama step up to the plate and try to win back the progressive base that worked so hard to get him elected in 2008?

If so, will enough of us support him?

That last question is not a rhetorical one. Sometimes we just have to face reality and vote for the proverbial lesser of two evils. We cannot afford any more Republican Supreme Court appointments.

But we can—and we must—make noise in the meantime. For democracy. And for true change that we really can believe in.

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty International or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail:

2 Responses to The two faces of Barack Obama

  1. Disappointed? Really? You still don’t get it about our good cop/bad cop Punch and Judy two party electoral system? You still don’t get it that the Obama administration has full continuity with the Bush regime, that our quasi-fascism is bipartisan? Pathetic!

  2. Joyce L. Arnold

    The Two Party Front for the Oligarchy is alive and well …