The early days of President Obama’s administration has me thinking about Michael Gorbachev. Gorbachev was arguably the world’s finest statesman in the latter part of the 20th century. Upon rising to the top of a homicidal and corrupt regime, Gorbachev presided over the disintegration of a nuclear empire with tolerance and sense. Under his leadership, the Soviet Union also became more tolerant of dissent and one-party domination came to an end.
During the “velvet revolutions” of 1989, Gorbachev resisted his country’s military industrial complex and allowed Eastern Europe to go its own way. Hence, a piece of the Berlin Wall is among my most prized possessions today. Gorbachev’s ultimate legacy is that the Cold War ended with minimal bloodshed and he deserves the world’s everlasting gratitude.
Yet Gorbachev today is not well regarded in Russia or any of the former Soviet Republics. He made the fateful mistake of trying to reform a system that was irredeemable, inept and beyond repair. As a result, Russians blame Gorbachev for the lean years that followed the Cold War’s end.
And that brings me to President Obama. Obama is well intentioned, intelligent and possesses a judicious temperament. He skillfully navigated the perilous waters of Chicago backroom politics, survived the gold fish bowl of a presidential campaign and prevailed over America’s racist culture. I’m hopeful that his presidency will restore America’s geopolitical standing, end our suicidal global war on terror posture and refocus our priorities to address global warming. Already, Obama has moved the terms of debate in a more progressive direction on numerous fronts. I remain a proud supporter.
Sadly though it is apparent that Obama either believes Wall Street capitalism can be reformed or is simply too beholden to the financial services sector to truly restructure America’s economy. Just as Soviet Communism was irredeemable, Wall Street capitalism is also beyond repair. Hence, I find the current debate about the economic stimulus package foolish. In the scheme of things the package that will ultimately pass is a penny ante game when America needs to entirely restructure it’s economic and social paradigm.
Hence, I suspect that the years ahead will not so much be about “right” vs. “left” but repair vs. change. Obama campaigned on change but in reality his administration is aligned with the cause of repair. It seems to me our Wall Street centric economy is beyond repair. A few years ago repair may have been possible but that ship has sailed. I hope I’m wrong but I suspect efforts at repair will only serve to deepen America’s cascade of ruin. I further suspect that citizens across the political spectrum will catch up to this reality long before our elected leaders. Hopefully, President Obama will figure it out sooner rather than later.