After winning the Presidency promising "change you can believe in", there were many who hoped major reform would be initiated by Obama. Though there has been a perceptible rhetorical shift in tone emanating from the White House with Obama taking over from Bush, the change ushered in by Obama has so far fallen far short of anything resembling revolutionary change. Rather than a clear break from the past, Obama is bringing about incremental change that is more timid than bold. Witnessing what Obama is doing, it strikes me that if he had been completely forthright about his intentions, Obama's main campaign slogan would have been "Continuity we can believe in".
One of the reasons Obama prevailed over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primaries is he had opposed the Iraq war, having calling it a "dumb war". Thus, many of the Democratic faithful might have gotten the false impression Obama was an anti-war Democrat. Nothing could be further from the truth. During the campaign, Obama didn't hide his intention to escalate the military effort in Afghanistan as American troops start leaving Iraq. As President, Obama is now carrying out his plans to intensify the effort to eradicate the Taliban in Afghanistan. Beneath the veneer of lofty rhetoric, Obama appears to be just as committed to the war against terror as his predecessor. It escapes me how a seemingly bright man like Obama can not grasp the simple concept that more brutality by American troops will not be well received by an ornery Afghan population. Obama has set a course that is not all that different from what could have been expected from a Republican administration. It is now clear under Obama we'll will continue to fruitlessly chase shadowy troublemakers in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan, all the while planting the seeds for future trouble. Obama's relatively modest increase in troop strength in Afghanistan is profoundly foolish. Not only will violence almost certainly rise, but it is also hard to fathom how we can afford to piss away billions of dollars we don't have. Putting more troops into Afghanistan is not the type of change I was looking for from Bush's successor.
Regarding the bank bailouts, Obama hasn't been any less enthusiastic to assist the big banks than Bush. With Timoty Geithner as architect, the administration has continued to give preferential treatment to the Wall Street banks. Oh sure, Obama has spoken out against the nefarious deeds on Wall Street, but his administation is just as cozy with the banks as the preceding one. What probably should have happened in response to the financial meltdown is a government takeover of the faltering banks, but instead Obama and his advisors have bent over backwards to rescue the banks, while doing relatively little to help homeowners facing foreclosure. This shows that Obama's economic team has either not fully abandoned trickle-down economics as a viable economic model or is too compromised by its close relationship with Wall Street to prescribe a dose of tough medicine for the big banks. Whatever the case, the approach the Obama administration has taken in addressing the financial meltdown on Wall Street can hardly be categorized as major change.
After the recent Wall Street woes, it might have been expected that a major restructuring of the economy would take place. Nothing Obama has done so far suggests he is aiming to do that. The big banks are as powerful and unwieldy as ever suggesting they are still "too big to fail", which raises the possibility of future bailouts by the federal government. And though Obama's plans of raising tax rates on the wealthy may curb the explosive growth of the wealth gap a bit, the wealth gap will likely remain rather pronounced given Obama's relatively timid proposals. As for health care, the Obama plan will laudably attempt to expand the number of Americans with health insurance, but will regrettably spurn the more comprehensive change of a single-payer system. This will leave the American health care system stuck with a bloated bureaucracy that is woefully inefficient and appallingly expensive. None of this sounds like major change to me.
Sure, Obama represents a change from his predecessor. But once we look past Obama's lofty rhetoric, actual change Obama is bringing looks rather unspectacular. From America's international entanglements to the economy, not all that much is changing under Obama. It will apparently take far more than electing a new President to significantly alter the status quo in this country.