Looking back over the last ten years of American politics, I am totally amazed at how things can go from bad to worse to hope and change and back again. In 2004, I couldn’t believe that a shallow callow frat-boy douchebag like George W. Bush could be re-elected. He was “elected” in 2000 by the weirdest Supreme Court decision ever, but OK, shit sometimes happens. Then he lied the country into the dumbest wars ever, sanctioned torture, ran roughshod over civil rights, and presided over a soon-to-be-burst economic bubble. And he got re-elected?!
In 2006, voters turned on him with a vengeance and gave power in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to the Democrats. Finally the electorate seemed to be waking up. Then Barack Obama came along in 2008 promising something different in Washington, It was the first US election I voted in, and I was stoked. Maybe he could actually turn things around. But he was dealt a terrible hand and left to clean up the frat-boy’s mess. He stopped the use of torture and vowed to close Guantanamo. He pushed through a stimulus bill, and started working on universal health care. I think his biggest mistake at the time was not prosecuting the Wall Street warriors who damn near brought down the world economy. His second-biggest mistake was not prosecuting any of the Bush officials who lied and tortured their way into never-ending wars.
For far too long, he thought that he could work with Republicans. In any other democracy in the world, Obama’s 2008 election mandate would have given him the power to implement his agenda. But not in the USA. The American political system of checks and balances check-mated him. His endless efforts to compromise on universal healthcare almost doomed the plan, but he managed to squeak it through even though he lost his six-month=old filibuster-proof majority when Scott Brown won a Senate seat in January 2010. (Democrats only had a 60 seat majority from the time Al Franken was finally declared the winner in June 2009 until Scott Brown was elected in 2010.)
After that it was nothing but GOP obstructionism and government shutdowns.
Obama did his best to keep the economy from tanking totally, and he largely succeeded without any help from the Republicans. In spite of the terrible roll-out of Obamacare, and even though Republican state governments blocked medicare expansion in many states, Obamacare succeeded in bringing health care to millions of Americans who were previously uninsured.
Obama has had some successes, but he gets no credit. Why is that? The Republicans have succeeded in blocking so many initiatives that they made it seem like the problems those initiatives would have addressed are Obama’s fault. In 2010 they succeeded in gerrymandering enough Congressional districts to control of the House of Representatives even though more people vote for Democrats than for Republicans. Other than being against Obama, and afraid of ISIS and Ebola, the Republicans ran an agenda-free election, and they won.
I guess Republicans are smarter than I give them credit for, and Americans are dumber.