Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama's High-Wire Act: The U.S., Haiti, Cuba

I seem to recall that a popular definition of an idiot is someone who continues to do the same wrong thing over and over and is surprised to get the same result. I’m hoping that President Obama’s superior intelligence is secretly at work toward the change he promised.

We’re being told this morning that the theme of tonight’s State of the Union speech will be bi-partisanship: that has to mean more cooperation from Republicans. Does the president really believe the Republicans are suddenly going to play nice (whether or not they captured the Massachusetts Senate seat)?

More worringly, if President Obama sincerely believes that he can obtain the cooperation of his adversaries, he is admitting that Democrats and Republicans are more alike than most Obama voters would like to think. It’s obviously good for a country to be led by a bunch of people who basically agree. But if that bunch represents a minority of the whole, what we have is not democracy but oligarchy.

Moving on momentarily to Haiti, for all their bad reputa-tion, the Haitian people have been admirably patient after an earthquake all but destroyed their country. Are they likely to renew their confidence in a government that only exists because the United States wants it to? (Jean Ber-trand Aristide, whom the people voted in twice, was twice deposed by American presidents for opposing the kind of economic system that left Haiti without hospitals - or even Tylenol - when the earthquake struck.)

Now let’s move on to Haiti’s neighbor, Cuba. Food is still rationed after fifty years of trying to achieve equality in the face of a powerful neighbor who disapproves. But Cuba takes care of its people when cyclones hit, trains Haitian doctors free of charge and sends 400 Cuban doctors to work permanently in Haiti. I wonder how many Haitians wish they were on the other side of the Wayward Passage that separates them from Cuba.

Returning now to the United States, the “change” Obama promised when we enthusiastically elected him, can only come about if he denounces the distortion of the term “bi-partisan”: originally the term meant that opposing camps are both able to support a given legislation. In Washington, Republicans only support legislation once its Democratic flavor has been neutralized.

Sooner or later, an American president who cares about the American people is going to have to bite the bullet and encourage the creation of a Social Democratic alternative to “bi-partisan” oligarchy.

And some day, if we let them, the Haitian people will stand up for the kind of government they want.

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