Brian Hieggelke

One Year into History

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Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like the fine people of Massachusetts have, perhaps unwittingly, dishonored the legacy of their late long-serving Senator Ted Kennedy in a manner worse than if they’d dug up his grave and paraded his skull around Faneuil Hall on a pole? If there was one cause his entire career stood for, it was health-care reform, and if there was one way to honor him, it was to enact this first bit of progressive legislation in a generation. Instead, he had the audacity to die in office, and to punish him, his voters turned against him and made his death, in irony most cruel, the thing that might just prevent the enactment of that which he valued most of all.

Is it just me, or is it specious reasoning to infer that the Massachusetts voters who, in effect, voted against health-care reform in this election are thus against the principle of universal health care? Is it at all possible that, since they already have universal health care and are paying for it with their state tax dollars, that they just did not want to incur the cost of getting a redundant program?

Is it just me, or should Boston take back its Tea Party soon? Can someone to the left of center please spend a minute or two studying the semantics of shameless propaganda, American Revolution chapter?

Is it just me, or would today’s “Tea Partyers” almost certainly have worn redcoats if they’d visited Massachusetts nearly 250 years ago? After all, the patriots were hardly conservatives and were, by definition, America’s first progressives.

Is it just me, or if the Tea Partyers were really a spontaneous social movement, wouldn’t they have surfaced at the end of the Bush administration, when most of the fiscal offenses they see as so poisonous were actually being initiated?

Is it just me, or if Illinois voters end up sending a Republican to the Senate or the Governor’s office, will that have nothing to do with any “mandate” on national politics, and everything to do with our disgust at the state of affairs here at home, starting with our shame over our reality-show star of an ex?

Is it just me, or have we failed to enact any meaningful progressive legislation now in more than a generation? Is it possible that this failure fosters the anti-government underpinnings of dissent, that if government is impotent, it should be minimized? Shouldn’t we instead view government leaders as having two core missions: 1. To operate as effectively as possible the infrastructure we’ve assigned to it; from defense to making sure our roads and bridges are safe. 2. To gradually improve the quality of the human condition in areas where the forces of the marketplace create incentives perhaps inconsistent with basic human values?

Is it just me, or is it misguided to criticize the president for inadequate focus on the economy in favor of pushing forward progressive reform a generation overdue? When we elected him, were we voting for change, or for a glorified janitor, one who would do nothing more than spend his term and his political capital trying to clean up the mess of his predecessor?

Is it just me, or hasn’t Barack Obama been almost exactly the kind of president we expected? Smart, thoughtful, cautiously progressive and sometimes just cautious? Here’s what I wrote when we endorsed his election:  “And now we endure the discouraging general-election campaign, bearing witness as a candidate we once respected, John McCain, throws away his legacy in an increasingly desperate gambit to mobilize the right, which seems to respond only to the language of hate and the tactic of character destruction, so thoroughly have its ideas been discredited by the failure of the Bush regime. And though Obama has been impressively cool in the face of these attacks, no matter how vile and personal, and though Obama has redeemed our early faith with a campaign generally impressive in substance, tactic and decision, it is hard not to be worn down by the incessant pecking of the sound bite, to grow weary of it all. Now is the time, then, to think about what first engaged you in this candidacy: yes, the promise of redemption, in part, for America’s original sin through the election of an African American; yes, the excitement of a candidate who preached and practiced a new style of post-partisan politics; yes, the wonder of a candidate who reinvigorated the idea of America as a progressive nation, not one mired in the dead-end belief that the only freedom that mattered was that of the market; yes, the pleasure of seeing a candidate who unabashedly evoked the inexplicably abandoned ideal of America being led by its best and its brightest.”

Is it just me, or is it time to revisit the reasons we voted for him in the first place? Has he really let us down, or have we, perhaps, not let him down?

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