Skip to main content

Change Comes From Below, Not From Above

  • Author:
  • Updated:

by Ben Cohen

Michael Tomasky reminds liberals that while Obama may have progressive tendencies, America is still a deeply conservative country, and change will only come from a lot of hard work from below:

Liberals in my country tend to have a deeply romantic view of political
movements. When we think of the civil rights movement, we think of the
highlights, the stirring moments. Memory tricks us, and the media,
which speak in such shorthand, help perpetuate the trick. So we tend to
think that Rosa Parks sat on a bus, Martin Luther King gave some great
speeches, decent Americans recoiled at racist violence on the nightly
news, and boom, change happened. The reality was that nine long years
passed from Parks's act of civil disobedience until Lyndon Johnson
signed the civil rights bill – nine years of often mundane and
inglorious work. And even then, the civil rights bill didn't really fix
the problem of African Americans being denied the vote, so Congress had
to go back the next year and pass the voting rights act.

Ditto with Franklin Roosevelt, to whom Obama is often unflatteringly
compared...... Roosevelt made lots of mistakes – the bill he'd intended as the
landmark legislation of his first year, the national industrial
recovery act, was an abysmal failure, eventually struck down as
unconstitutional by the supreme court.

The political realities in America make real change very difficult. The spectacular implosion of the Right may be completely ridiculous, but its power to spread lies and disinformation has had a devastating effect on Obama's ability to move quickly. He may want to bring real change to America, but Fox News, Max Baucas and Rush Limbaugh represent powerful institutions that cannot be overturned at the flick of a switch. As Tomasky rightly says, change, "takes years, which is a bummer, in a political culture that measures
success and failure by the hour. The end of euphoria should lead not to
disillusionment, but to seriousness of purpose."

Time to get moving people.