[Please note: I am currently without internet at home, and as such, I’m posting what is essentially an emotionally charged first draft in order to get it online. Please leave comments pointing out factual errors and other annoyance, as well as your general thoughts, and I will eventually post an edited version on The Commentariat.]

In the 2008 presidential election, voters of my generation turned out overwhelmingly in favor of now-President Barack Obama. The media says—and I agree—that we did so because we have been exposed to more than eighteen years of divisive, polarized politics. Partisan hackery is all the voters of my generation have ever known. An articulate and intelligent man promising change—promising to end that partisan hackery—reignited our idealism. Barack Obama guaranteed himself our vote with promises of a new Washington.

Half a year later, it’s hard to see what progress he’s made. From the closing of Guantanamo to the illegal wiretapping performed by the Bush administration, Obama has toed the establishment line on important issues that had earned him the vote of the iGeneration. His fiscal policy, like that of the majority of Washington politicians, is indeed a form of socialism—or, more accurately, social democracy; the Washington establishment abandoned its claim to anything resembling true capitalism when it branded financial institutions, and worse, large businesses, ‘too big to fail’—if not long before. The Obama administration has made no effort to prosecute the criminals of the Bush administration, and from all reports the largest change Obama has made in the White House since taking office is a sartorial one: the dress code has been relaxed in the most powerful building in the world. Whether or not you’re in favor of formal dress, that’s a poor decision issue to be famous for as the President of the United States.

Some may point out that Obama is at least articulate and intelligent and doesn’t practice cowboy diplomacy, that he at least uses hope instead of fear to gain support, and these things are true. However, the last eight years have made many of us forget that a president bright enough to understand national security briefings and remain friendly with the civilized world, a president capable of leading with hope instead of threatening with fear, should not be a luxury, but our basic expectation for the position. Although I for one am truly grateful to once again be able to claim such a president, I would remind my fellow Americans that we should not rate a merely competent president more highly than he deserves simply because he follows an incompetent one.

In retrospect, Obama’s indebtedness to the political establishment seems apparent. His rise to the presidency was meteoric, and began, for most of us, with his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention during the 2004 presidential elections. I predicted then, without benefit of any political party’s polling numbers, that Barack Obama would run in and win the 2008 election. If I predicted it as a seventeen-year-old, we can rest assured that the Democratic Party was more than aware of his ability to sway voters and win elections. His keynote address that year was the Party’s way of introducing him into the public eye. He was already being groomed then by diehard members of the Democratic political establishment for a run at the presidency. The image of change he projected during the 2008 electoral campaign was carefully calculated and chosen by his staffers and the Democratic Party at large as the one most likely to win the election for him—no more.

Obama’s challenger, John McCain, had been part of the Washington political establishment for far longer. Except perhaps for the blatant idiocy of McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, no part of the 2008 election was a real danger to the status quo in Washington. Regardless of the result, the man who moved into the White House would be a man picked and groomed by the Washington power brokers to fill the most powerful seat on Earth. He would not be a true outsider. There would be no real change.

And so we come to the most important questions the iGeneration has faced so far. Willingly blind as we were to his establishment ties, we still have the right to be angry at Obama for so glibly accepting our support; we still have the right to be angry at the Washington political establishment for maintaining a two-party system that is nearly as restrictive and choice-denying as a one-party system. We still have the right to be disappointed in ourselves for accepting the stories of change they told us without question.

But in the face of our disappointment, will we remember that we have these rights? In the flow of our anger, will we accept the responsibility to disempower the Washington establishment that has so blunted our political rights and replace it with a system worth supporting?

In the final estimation, will we be the generation that brings real change to Washington?

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