Bill Berkowitz: "I'll Vote for You Next November, President Obama, But To Quote B.B. King 'The Thrill is Gone'"
August 16, 2011
I'm not a devoted fan of Ed Shultz's MSNBC show, but when I tune in, I do appreciate his passion and willingness to fight for the working poor and the middle class. I can also share Schultz's frustration the night after Wisconsin Democrats failed in their bid to recall enough Republican State Senators to shift the balance of power in that legislative body, and why he would call out President Obama as being missing in action.
Since Governor Scott Walker launched his attack on the state's public workers and their unions this past winter, President Obama has indeed been missing in action. The recall campaign was a bellwether event. And Obama was nowhere to be found. Too busy to get involved in the recall effort; too busy to visit the state; too stressed by other matters.
Shame on you President Obama.
Breaking up is hard to do
For months I've been searching for an Obama break-up song. I certainly recognize that the president has no relationship with me other than him wanting my vote for re-election (just as he received it in 2008), and having his fundraising team pepper my mailbox, and inbox, with fundraising appeals.
Break ups don't just happen. Depending on the length, strength and depth of the relationship, a break up can be pretty darned traumartic; sometimes the after-shocks last a long time. Break ups can happen over silly things or fundamental chasms in relationships. These days, break ups may be losing its gravitas as text message and twitter replace face to face confrontation.
I've been putting this break up off, hoping against hope that Obama would start to turn things around and redeem himself; that he would recognize the nature of the forces arrayed against him, and that he would fight back. Maintaining hope thing hasn't been easy. I've got friends who gave that up a long time ago. And, I've got friends who never bought into the Obama in the first place, figuring that Obama was too closely allied with Wall Street to significantly reorder Washington's political landscape.
Things have rolled steadily downhill since Team Obama demobilized its 14 million supporters at the start of his presidency (See "Where in the World Is Obama's Missing Millions (people that is!)?”). Still, there was reason to believe (or so I thought and argued) that he'd come out of his compromise at all costs mentality.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Jon Carroll is one of my favorite daily columnists. Even his cat stories (for the most part) are fun to read. In a column dated August 10 and titled "Can Obama lead? Liberals want to know" Carroll discusses Drew Westen's recent buzz-worthy New York Times column titled "What Happened to Obama.".
Carroll writes: "Even on Inaugural Day, Obama let the occasion make the statement. He had no overarching message, no call to arms to take the country back from the plutocrats. Indeed, he probably didn't want that - he has hired the world's finest plutocrats as his closest advisers. His election as a black man was historic; the election of this black man may not be all that game-changing."
Carroll: "... Obama is called on to lead a nation-state. There are certain responsibilities there. One is that the leader give succor to his friends and confusion to his enemies. That doesn't mean rejecting compromise; that means appearing never to be forced into compromise. And here we have a leader whose opening gambit is compromise."
Then there's Bret Stephens, a Wall Street Journal columnist who I probably agree with once in a very blue moon. However, Stephens, who writes the WSJ's "Global View" column on foreign affairs and was the former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, caustically commented that Obama: "makes predictions that prove false. ... makes promises he cannot honor. ... raises expectations he cannot meet. ... reneges on commitments made in private. ... surrenders positions staked in public. ... is absent from issues in which he has a duty to be involved [and] He is overbearing when he ought to be absent."
I'm not sure if the Wisconsin recall effort was the final straw. I'm not sure there are any final straws, but my search for a break up song picked up steam this week.
Break up songs memorialize failed romantic relationships. For the life of me, I can't find any break up songs about leaving a political party, parting ways with a political candidate, or, for that matter, forsaking a favored sports team.
In break up songs it's either your fault (you cheated), my fault (I'm not ready to commit), or it's no one's fault (we've grown apart). Does any of this possibly apply to my "relationship" with Obama?
Yes; the "you cheated" break up.
My decision to support him in 2008 was just as much (perhaps even more so) an emotional decision as it was a political one. I wanted to believe in "Hope and Change." I wanted to believe in "Yes We Can."
I knew that Hillary Clinton would fight against the Right's onslaught that was guaranteed, no matter which Democrat was elected, since she and husband, President Bill, had been duking it out with the Right for years. I decided on Obama because I was optimistic that he would bring young people and those who had been disenfranchised into play. There was a possibility that a generation of hopers and changers and yes we can-ers would be loosed upon the land.
My search for a break up song
I'm old school, but this is the twenty-first century so perhaps my choice of break up songs should be closer to Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" of Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" than Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" or Neil Sedaka's "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do".
In that spirit, I turned to Cristin Maher's list of "10 Best Break Up Songs" posted at Pop Crush, seeking out something contemporary.
"Better That We Break," a 2008 song by Maroon 5 has the group's lead singer Adam Levine singing "I'm not fine, I'm in pain / It's harder everyday / Maybe we're better off this way? / It's better that we break."
Rhianna's 2008 song "Rehab" takes on life "after her relationship goes sour," singing "It's gonna take a miracle to bring me back / And you're the one to blame."
"Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart" is Alicia Keyes' contribution: "I can still hear inside my head / Telling me, touch me, feel me / And all the time you were telling me lies / So tonight I'm gonna find a way to make it without you."
"Say Goodbye" has Chris Brown singing: "There's never a right time to say goodbye / But I gotta make the first move / 'Cause if I don't you gonna start hating me / Cause I really don't feel the way I once felt about you."
Not satisfied in my quest, , I turned to Isabella Snow's "Top 25 Break Up Songs", which includes: "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" (Bill Withers); "Don't Think Twice" (Bob Dylan); "These Boots Are Made For Walking" (Nancy Sinatra); "Lonely Avenue (Ray Charles)'; "Missing You" (John Waite).
There are plenty of break up songs to choose from. But, is it really over between Obama and me?
Given the choice we'll be faced with in November 2012, and paraphrasing The Tempos 1959 summer hiatus song, "See You In September," I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing you in November ... but, in the words of B.B. King, "The Thrill is Gone."