We’re nearing general election season. The Republican primary is over now. The Paul campaign, as usual, never really got off the ground. The Gingrich campaign went careening into a ditch on March 13, when Alabama and Mississippi picked Santorum over Gingrich, despite the man from Georgia’s race-baiting, xenophobic campaign. And Santorum’s campaign is like something out of The Walking Dead, wandering over the landscape despite the fact that it was killed weeks ago. Mexican American presidential nominee Mitt Romney will face Obama this November, and now that this is a sure thing, Obama has returned to his fighting stance — the one he abandoned almost immediately upon taking office.
Remember 2008? Obama meant change — dare we say, radical change — from the status quo. The forces of evil, of war and belligerence and greed and torture and outright malice, were on their way out. Obama would usher in a new dawn, and all these damned greedheads would be sent running. And then Guantanamo didn’t close down. Obama reiterated the Bush doctrine that we can kill anyone, anytime, anywhere — even American citizens — if the government perceives them as a threat. Single-payer healthcare was laughed out of the debate, and the sop to liberals, the public option, was DOA. Obama governed as a centrist politician. He tried to work with Republicans time and again, no matter how often they bit the hand he outstretched toward them.
And here we are, four years later, and Obama is running the same old game. Rep. Paul Ryan, whose economic policies run somewhere between “Ayn Randian” and “Screw you, I’ve got mine,” proposed a federal budget last week, which Obama derided as “social Darwinism.” The president also took the Supreme Court to task, saying that repealing the Affordable Care Act would be the “unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
Now, it’s fun to watch conservatives try to defend judicial activism, I’ll grant you. And Rep. Ryan and others of his ilk would foster an America in which the poorest people would slip through massive rips in the social safety net. But rather than hoot and holler for the progressive side of the street, I can’t help in this case but be ruled by my cynical side. Have we not seen this fighter before? And did we not see this fighter quickly turn into a congenial would-be member of an old-boy network that wants nothing to do with him in the first place?
Especially among the gun-nut crowd (And I say that out of love — you’d be hard-pressed to find a more pro-Second Amendment liberal than me.), there’s a great deal of talk that Obama’s second term will be far more liberal than the first, that the president will place severe restrictions on gun rights, stick a flower down the barrel of every soldier’s M-16, sing a few rounds of “Kumbaya,” and nationalize all industry. But nothing in the past has offered us any evidence — none whatsoever — that Obama will govern any differently than he has in the past. And while he may deride obviously absurd, off-the-cliff nightmares like the Ryan budget, he will also continue to work with Republicans to find solutions. It’s no coincidence that ideas like the healthcare plan and his early support of cap-and-trade were all initially supported on the right side of the aisle. The fighter is a campaign-time caricature. The president we have is the one we will get.