First the good news, Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was a truly inspirational address that’s certain to rally his supporters as well as win over many of those on the fence, including many of the hold out Clinton supporters, the so called PUMAs.  While it takes a lot more than good speeches to change the direction of a country, it’s vital that before you can change the course of a nation you must first change the national conversation.  The tired rhetoric of defense and patriotism has been replaced with talk of jobs and hope.  Calls for tax cuts for the wealthy and privatization of Social Security have given way to demands for the expansion of the middle class and universal healthcare.  These are the issues that need our attention.  If we hope to have this country work for us again then the focus must be on the issues that affect our lives rather than lapel pins and pastors, patriotism and bowling scores.

Obama took it squarely to McCain, accusing him of being out of touch with working Americans while backing the same stale policies that Bush and the Republicans have been pushing for years,

And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.

Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?

I don’t know about you, but I am not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives — on health care, and education, and the economy — Senator McCain has been anything but independent.

He said that our economy has made great progress under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

And when one of his chief advisers, the man who wrote his economic plan, was talking about the anxieties that Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a mental recession and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

The last part is particularly significant because it’s an outlook you’ll hear echoed over and over in the weeks to come by pundits, McCain supporters and Washington insiders alike.  The denial that the economy is in freefall and that working Americans are struggling is directly tied to the desire of the powerful to maintain the status quo, something Obama clearly understands,

For over two decades — for over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

In Washington, they call this the “Ownership Society,” but what it really means is that you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you’re on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You’re on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots. You are on your own.

Well, it’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America. And that’s why I’m running for president of the United States.

Also reflected in Obama’s speech were his centrist or moderate views such as his position on healthcare.  Clearly Obama supports serious reform in healthcare but still favors a system that utilizes a useless and counter productive private insurance industry that not only needlessly drains off healthcare dollars that could be better spent elsewhere but is so often at odds with healthcare consumers.  Obama doesn’t mention private insurance specifically but it can be inferred by what he did say,

If you have health care — if you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don’t, you’ll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.

And — and as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions is a nice sentiment but doing away with private insurance altogether would eliminate the problem completely.

The bad news however, goes deeper than Obama’s willingness to appease those who prey upon working people, though that is part of it.  In an email newsletter published by author and populist advocate David Sirota, he talks about how even when things change they still remain the same.  While dining with some progressive activists friends after Wednesday’s convention activities, Sirota made this observation,

Over the course of about 10 minutes, a few Obama advisers trickled into the restaurant, followed by a flood of some of the biggest sharks that swim in the murky delta where money and Democratic politics meet.Among others, Bob Rubin (Citigroup chair), Larry Summers (former Treasury Secretary), Jim Johnson (political rainmaker) and Laura Tyson (former Clinton economic adviser) filed in and sat down at a long dinner table – clearly some kind of economic pow-wow with Obama officials, leavened with other political celebrities like former-vice-president-turned- corporate-board-member Walter Mondale and journalist Al Hunt. (emphasis added)

Real change will not come to this country until the power structure changes.  As long as the golden rule still applies-those who have the gold make the rules-nothing is ever really going to change.  And no matter what actually resides in Obama’s heart, so long as power is derived from the wealthy, as evidenced by Sirota’s dinner observations, and not the people, we can expect Washington to operate in the same manner that it has for decades.

Additionally, in the same email, Sirota makes another troubling observation,

Perhaps most troubling has been the involvement of government security agencies in trying to repress those protesting and reporting on the corruption. During a walk through downtown at lunch today, the police were (as they have been all week) patrolling the street in full riot gear.

While I understand the need for security at events like this, the visual expression of force – the billy clubs, armor, helmets, and military-style patrols – are clearly designed to intimidate anyone from raising any kind of uncomfortable questions in any kind of public way. And that intimidation includes jailing reporters.

ABC News reports that just yesterday, “Police in Denver arrested an ABC News producer today as he and a camera crew were attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.” ABC caught the whole thing on tape – and it perfectly captures the obscene use of Denver’s municipal government to trample the First Amendment and cover-up brazen corruption.

There’s a long history of using the police to suppress dissent and protest, even when conducted peacefully and legally.  As much as we want to believe the authorities exist only for our protection, from union busting to infiltrating law abiding protest groups, law enforcement not only protects life and property but also the existing power structure as well.

In fact it gets worse.  Reported in Glenn Greenwald’s column are events far more troubling than those seen at the Democratic National Convention.  This is what’s going on in preparation for the Republican National Convention,

Protesters here in Minneapolis have been targeted by a series of highly intimidating, sweeping police raids across the city, involving teams of 25-30 officers in riot gear, with semi-automatic weapons drawn, entering homes of those suspected of planning protests, handcuffing and forcing them to lay on the floor, while law enforcement officers searched the homes, seizing computers, journals, and political pamphlets. Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff’s department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than “fire code violations,” and early this morning, the Sheriff’s department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

This is an example of the blatant use of power to intimidate those who want only to exercise their constitutional right to assemble freely and protest.  And while the greatly increased severity of this intimidation occurring at the RNC over the DNC was certainly no accident, the fact remains, no matter where you are any real attempt to topple the existing power structure in this country is going to be met with fierce resistance.

This resistance has been emboldened by Bush’s lawlessness and disregard for the Constitution.  From warrantless spying on Americans to the suspension of habeas corpus, the powers that be now have the legal ability to peek into anyone’s private life and to imprison indefinitely anyone deemed undesirable.  These un-Constitutional powers were enacted ostensibly to keep us safe from terrorism but will ultimately and inevitably be used against Americans desiring only to make their government work for them rather than just the privileged few.  After witnessing the overwhelming use of power against those who’ve done nothing, can anyone deny this?

Speaking truth to power has always been challenging, not to mention dangerous, and it will be even more so now.  And while there’s absolutely no question that putting Obama in the White House is far superior to allowing McCain to perpetuate the same failed policies that have all but destroyed this country, don’t forget that the police state we now live in came to be with the full support of the Democratic Party.

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