When Barack Obama began his improbable campaign to become president of the United States, I began referring to him as "the Obama." He was sui generis, a singularity, a figure unique in American politics, and when against all odds, the Obama became the first African American, and one of the few intellectuals, to be elected president, he sealed the case. His oratorical powers were superb. He seemed to have the temperament for the monumental tasks confronting him. I was even willing to grant that we weren't going to get much in terms of sound progressive policies, although each time I thought the moderate Democrat in him would win out, he proved me wrong--a moderate Democrat in 2009 is politically on a par with the 1968 vintage Richard Nixon--think about it. Then came healthcare, and his abject surrender of a "public option" for health insurance, coupled with his embrace of the notion that people must be made to purchase private health insurance, a proposition antithetical to the notion that access to decent healthcare is a fundamental right. What makes this surrender so cowardly are the polls, like the one the New York Times reports on today, showing that close to two-thirds of the American people support a public option. He's got the people behind him; all he has to do is rally them.
Diehard Obamans will claim that he continues to support a "public option," but there is scant proof of that. He has basically left the House of Representatives out to dry by declaring that although he personally would prefer a "public option," its absence will not trigger an automatic veto. Obama's equivocation on this one issue, which, denials to the contrary, is essential to any successful health industry reform--and then only if it involves true coverage, say through expansion of Medicare--has confused the public precisely because it is so illogical. Whether Obama really wants to beef up the private insurance industry or for all his high rhetoric does not understand healthcare or is willing to settle for anything so he can claim success, I can't say. I can say his wavering has earned him "the" demotion. He will not easily reclaim it.
There are times in the world's history when leaders emerge to meet a pressing need. The time is now; the need is present and pressing;t the leader is awol. We can only hope he returns.