Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Good-bye to All That...

Maybe our long national nightmare is over. I am not wildly optimistic, but I am pretty sure that the incoming Obama administration will be a huge improvement over the last eight years.

When I think of what has happened under Bush's watch, it seems like the culmination of a lifetime of paranoid worst-case scenarios. Okay, we weren't nuked by terrorists, and we haven't endured the death of millions by genetically altered Super Flu. But, you know, without reciting the litany... unnecessary war, economic ruin, legitimizing of torture, shredding of the Constitution, fiddling while the planet burns...

Oops. Hard to stop with that litany, I've recited it so many times.

One thing I probably won't be doing is watching the inaugural events. I'm still pissed about Rick Warren, but it's more than that. It's the marketing of it, the packaging, the constant hype - seriously, do we need any more reminders that this is "historic"?

But worse than that is this expectation that I'm supposed to feel something. "So-and-so is over the moon! We're going to celebrate!"

The unspoken criticism: "You don't feel it? What's wrong with you?"

I do feel something, mostly relief that no matter what happens, George Bush is gone, Dick Cheney is gone, Alberto Gonzales and Dick Addington, gone, Donald Rumsfeld, gone - well, he was already gone. But the morally bankrupt and intellectually suspect ideology they championed leaves with them. I hope it's buried in the dust heap of history and stays there, where it belongs.

But first we have to clean up the mess.

Is Obama up to it? We'd better hope that he is. My expectations are limited. I think we will have a more rational foreign policy and that America's global standing will improve. I think we will see significant investment in alternative energy and infrastructure - there's really no other choice. Economic collapse makes Keynesians of us all.

Significant health care reform? Not so much. Reigning in corporate malfeasance? Sorry, I don't think so. After all, letting Wall Street operate untrammeled has worked so well. Addressing economic inequality and repairing the tattered safety net? Probably not, and I'm worried about social security privatization - Obama has made far too many dog-whistles on this subject.

But look. If some good things happen, and nothing too terrible does, that's enough for me right now. I'm a fan of incremental improvements, which are generally preferable to revolutionary upheavals. Those tend to happen when things are really, truly bad, and they rarely work out very well.

The first thing to do when you're heading off a cliff is to stop going that way.

So, here's hoping.

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