“Hope and change!”
Those were Barack Obama’s magic words to rally progressives and young people in the United States behind his historic 2008 campaign.
And based on Obama’s rhetoric and actions before 2008 – as a community organizer, as a state senator and as a US Senator – everyone had reason to believe that his campaign represented a rebirth of progressive values in the US.
That’s what people campaigned for; that’s what people voted for.
But it’s not what we got.
And that was pretty clear already in 2011 as Barack Obama ran for re-election against Mitt Romney.
He promised health care for all – we got a health care exchange market that’s hugely profitable for insurance companies.
He ran as a friend of labor – but he hasn’t done much to protect labor from governors like Scott Walker, who systematically stripped away collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin during Obama’s terms.
He didn’t close Gitmo, he didn’t end the Patriot Act and he didn’t end the wars in the Middle East.
Granted, Obama was blocked at every turn ever since his inauguration – when Republicans in Congress plotted to make him a one-term president instead of getting anything done.
But those are still the issues that Americans care about – and those are the issues that Obama built his career on and campaigned on.
Seriously – take a look at Obama speaking back in 2003 at an AFL-CIO event.
That’s Barack Obama as a state senator just over 10 years ago, speaking at an event hosted by the largest federation of unions in the United States – promoting universal health care.
But by the time he was running seriously against Hillary Clinton in 2008, he had changed his tune slightly.
Even then, his answer was hedged in such a way that he could appeal both to the centrist “pragmatic” democrats and still give the progressive wing hope.
Which was a smart campaign move – because Obama was never going to out-centrist Hillary – and he needed the progressive vote to win the primary.
But by the time he was up for re-election in 2012 – a lot of progressives were so turned off that they didn’t even turn out to vote, or they voted for third party candidates – and that nearly cost him re-election against Mitt Romney.
Because voters wanted Barack Obama to bring about a political revolution, the voters’ faith in Barack Obama wasn’t based on “hope AND change.”
It was based on “hope FOR change” – real reform of our rigged political and economic systems.
He appealed to people who were tired of 30-plus years of Republican shenanigans and Reaganism, and who didn’t want to hand the presidency from the Bush dynasty to the Clinton dynasty.
He appealed to people who wanted a Washington outsider – one who got the troubles of the working class – and understood that the system is rigged against the average American.
Just take a look at his remarks in 2007 to the SEIU and the Center for American Progress.
He had the message right – and he had progressives and the US worker on his side.
And he sounded a lot like one of the current Democratic frontrunners.
And that goes a long way to explain Bernie’s surge in the polls – and it also explains the support he’s receiving from Obama’s 2012 donors.
Nearly 35,000 of Obama’s contributors in 2012 have also contributed in the democratic primary this year.
And nearly 25,000 of them have contributed to Bernie’s campaign.
Because Americans are still ready for a political revolution.
It’s been more than 80 years since the Great Depression and World War II, and the generation that remembers the fevered free-market style of capitalism that led to the depression has mostly died off.
And today, we’re just barely out of the Great Recession of 2008.
But we never got the dramatic New Deal-style economic and social reforms that Americans voted for when we elected Barack Obama in 2008 in the midst of that recession.
We hoped that a vote for so-called “socialist” Obama was a vote for real change in our political and economic systems … and for a variety of reasons we didn’t get it.
And now the US is turning to a self-described socialist who regularly talks about his campaign as leading a political revolution and Hillary Clinton is trying hard to frame herself as a real populist.
The 2016 political season is starting to get very interesting.