In 2008, when President Obama was elected for the first time, millions of people were excited. Obama represented himself as a hope for something different and people wanted to believe in him. His election was seen as a symbol of the victory of African Americans’ struggles against racism. On election night in 2008, in cities across the country, thousands of people took to the streets in celebration.
But after four years of the Obama administration, the enthusiasm has disappeared. People might have felt relieved that Obama won but the excitement has gone away and there wasn’t the outpouring of support this time around. After four years, the high hopes people might have had in the Obama administration have dwindled or gone away completely.
This doesn’t mean people weren’t relieved to see Romney lose. Romney and the Republicans ran showing nothing but contempt for the majority of the population. Their campaign was hostile to immigrants, women, and the very idea of providing services for those most in need in society. On every issue, they promised to be harsher than the Obama administration, on war, budget cuts, attacks to workers, or tax breaks to the rich and corporations. It is a relief that 62 million people voted against the arrogance of the Romney campaign.
But feeling relieved by Romney’s loss is not at all the same as feeling excited by another four years of Obama. This was the lowest voter turnout since 2000. About ten million less people showed up to vote this time around and Obama was elected by seven million less votes than in 2008. Clearly many workers have paid attention these last four years and know that our lives have only gotten worse.
These past four years started with the trillions in bailouts to the banks and corporations as millions have lost their jobs and their homes. Banks continue to make record profits and have never had to pay a dime for ripping off people’s money and ruining our lives. And as corporations continue to make record profits, workers are doing more work than at anytime since 1929. The 500 largest corporations in the U.S. on average have the highest profits since 1929. And never before in U.S. history has so much wealth been in the hands of so few – the 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans put together.
What was hailed by Obama as the saving of the auto industry was nothing more than a massive attack on workers’ pensions, health care, and the setting up of a two-tier wage system, with all new-hires getting paid less than half as much as the regular workers. This basic policy is being followed in every industry – layoffs, cuts to wages, pensions, and healthcare, and more work for every worker that still has a job.
And at the same time, the policy of the governments at both the state and federal level has been to make cuts to social services and public workers. Whether it is the postal workers, Medicaid, Social Security, or education – it has been on the chopping block. And we’ve been promised that these cuts are far from over.
Despite the promises of hope and change, the first election of Obama didn’t lead to any improvement in our lives. These first four years were a clear reminder that despite the grand speeches and promises of campaigns, there is no political party that represents working people – neither the Republicans nor the Democrats. Under the Obama administration, we faced four years of attacks on working people. And now we are about to face four more years of the same.
Workers are right to want change. And it’s understandable why so many workers would want elected officials to fight for us. But they never will.
But there is a fight to be made, and it’s an important fight. But it can only be carried out by workers ourselves, in our own name. Nobody else will do it for us.