Howard Zinn on Obama from 2010

From Daily Kos:

I’ve been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama’s rhetoric; I don’t see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.

As far as disappointments, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because I didn’t expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that’s hardly any different from a Republican–as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there’s no expectation and no disappointment. On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordinary people–and that’s been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama’s no exception. On healthcare, for example, he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise, which is where we are now.

I thought that in the area of constitutional rights he would be better than he has been. That’s the greatest disappointment, because Obama went to Harvard Law School and is presumably dedicated to constitutional rights. But he becomes president, and he’s not making any significant step away from Bush policies. Sure, he keeps talking about closing Guantánamo, but he still treats the prisoners there as “suspected terrorists.” They have not been tried and have not been found guilty. So when Obama proposes taking people out of Guantánamo and putting them into other prisons, he’s not advancing the cause of constitutional rights very far. And then he’s gone into court arguing for preventive detention, and he’s continued the policy of sending suspects to countries where they very well may be tortured.

I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president–which means, in our time, a dangerous president–unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.

(via Poor Mojo)


  1. In the lead-up to the 2008 Presidential Elections, a friend told me that unless there was a continued groundswell in support of progressive issues, a lot of Obama’s supporters would be disappointed. He mentioned that the role of a Democratic President hasn’t been to daringly take the lead on the major social and economic issues that challenge the status quo.

    The Civil Rights Act didn’t pass just because LBJ was a swell guy and congress thought it was the right thing to do. There were people in the streets every day fighting for it, which gave those people the urgency and political cover they needed to get it passed. I haven’t seen that sort of well-organized support for healthcare and other issues of our time. Our politicians only saw the outrage on the other side.

    I think the left has gotten complacent and expected Obama to go in like Bush did and just start changing things left and right, but its a different challenge to reverse the status quo. Bush had it a lot easier, he was furthering the status quo.

  2. I knew he was not as liberal as I wanted – he was my third choice so I was not expecting rainbows and ponies.

    I was expecting a hard nosed fighter however, a guy who would actually lead & push for what he wanted. What we got was a giant beanbag, waiting for Congress to tell him what they will allow him. That is not good enough even when the Dems control both chambers. It is a disaster now that they don’t.

    This weak-willed, limp noodle, spineless patsy of a President has given the Republicans control of the government now. If we get really lucky whoever falls out of the clown car will actually be so repulsive to the average moron that spend 5 minutes (according to recent studies) deciding who to vote for that we will get a second term instead of much much worse. But he has killed the Dem brand so that 2016 will be a Republican year & we will pay dearly for what we have not done during the Obama misadministration.

  3. I don’t know how to feel about Obama. I think I am in a state of grieving. First there was denial. (“Ok, he’s made a few decisions that I disagree with. That’s ok. He’s a new president.) Then there was bargaining. (“Dear President Obama, I realize that you have made mistakes, but if you don’t start being a Democrat, I’m not going to vote for you in 2012!”) Depression… (“Fuck. Who cares? Why bother!”) But lately? ANGER! I didn’t vote for this! When will I get the sweet relief of acceptance?

  4. I was always skeptical on Obama’s promises and am suprised so few people entertained the notion that he wouldn’t carry them through. I’ll certainly never vote for a Republican, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that I’ll always vote Democrat. I don’t mind throwing my vote away to a third party if that’s what it takes to be heard.

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