As the inauguration approaches, and as I continue to read predictions of up to five million people descending on Washington (an unfathomable number that I continue to insist is not logistically possible), I wonder where all of this optimism for one politician is coming from.
I have nothing against Barack Obama. In fact, I voted for him. But I really wonder how naive Americans are if they think this man - or any politician - is going to bring sweeping positive change to America.
There are plenty of good politicians out there - noble people who really do want to be agents of change in their communities. But I dare say it's impossible to tell good from evil. There are surely plenty of Illinoisans (Illinoisers? Illinoid? Illinoisy?) who believed they were voting for a good man when they elected Rod Blagojevich Governor... but they were not. Blagojevich is a crook. His predecessor was a crook. There are crooked politicians dotting the map in America.
I have no reason to believe Barack Obama had a damned thing to do with the Blogojevich mess. But, for better or worse, he is a product of the Illinois political machine - a machine renowned for its filth... Here's just a recent history, courtesy of Wikipedia:
In 2006, former Governor George Ryan (R) was convicted of racketeering and bribery. In 2008, the sitting Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) was indicted on corruption charges stemming from allegations that he conspired to sell the vacated Senate seat left by President-elect Barack Obama (D) to the highest bidder. In the late 20th century Congressman Dan Rostenkowski (D) was imprisoned for mail fraud; former governor and federal judge Otto Kerner, Jr. (D) was imprisoned for bribery; and State Auditor of Public Accounts (Comptroller) Orville Hodge (R) was imprisoned for embezzlement.
People like Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan make it impossible for Americans to truly trust its politicians. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. - another Illinois politician - is jumping up and down insisting he did not try to buy Obama's Senate seat, but no matter how much he jumps, will we ever know whether he's telling the truth?
Even if Obama is clean (and again, I have no evidence to the contrary), how do we know his underlings are not taking bribes to get cabinet posts or undersecretary jobs? This suspicion is the horrible gift that the Blagojevich scandal has dumped on the Obama administration.
Although I voted for Obama, I never did feel that Oprah-like glow that many others did. Call me a cynic, but Obama is ONE person - and hopefully a good one. But he is not turning around America by himself, and so far, he's filling his cabinet with longtime Washington political operatives - people who lost their idealist virginity long ago. The Blagojevich mess reminds us that American politics is not a game for idealists to play, anyway.
And it makes the Obama mantra of "Change you can believe in" seem more and more like a hollow campaign slogan.
(NOTE: This blog entry can be removed for a price. I'm open to offers!)