1) Collectively inflate a human being into a God;
2) Crucify him.
Barack Obama was inaugurated one year ago today, having won an election as the Great Black Hope (And Change). The day before the inaugural, it was widely speculated Mr. Obama would saunter across the Potomac before waving his magisterial finger and transmuting the river to wine. Or something like that. Those of a more rational bent recognized the man was simply human, with considerable gifts to be sure, but no godlike powers.
Nevertheless, as his core issue in the first year of office, he seized on a task worthy of a god: convincing his fellow Americans of the benefits of a national health care system.
Most Canadians, comfortably enamoured of their own health care system (which is routinely vilified in the U.S.) look upon the current American system and despair. They view the rallies to preserve that system ("Get Your Government Hands Off My Medicare!") as proof of widespread American insanity.
This Canadian has trouble even trying to understand the typical American antipathy towards government. I mean, what is government for, anyway? And why do so many people vote for it, then hold rallies trying to keep it as far away as possible from their own lives?
The Wall Street Journal suggests that in electing Mr. Obama, Americans changed parties, not ideologies. The country is still what the WSJ calls a "center to center-right" nation; they only elected Obama out of disgust at Bush Jr., which had spread even to solid Republicans. (Myself, I'd suggest the word 'center' has little business in a sentence describing American politics...)
Now, one year on, the GOP has turned a blue state Brown. Nobody's suggesting that this represents a shift in the ideology of Massachusetts, that brown is but one step on the way to red. Rather, the fight over Ted Kennedy's former seat is widely viewed as a referendum on Obamacare...and Obama lost. Badly.
The Republicans have vowed to shoot down Obamacare, and short of some very dirty Democrat tricks, they now have the numbers to do it. What boggles this outsider's mind is that it should have ever come to this.
The Obamacare bill is a nightmare. It's been surgically altered so thoroughly that it bears almost no resemblance to the President's original vision...or to anything sane. Indeed, it's quite possibly worse than the status quo, if that's possible. Bay Staters and Americans at large were and are right to be highly skeptical.
That said, the bill is only as grotesque as it is because so many corporations and special interest groups have lobbied their asses off to get it that way. "Sure, we'll accept a government-run health care system, as long as the government doesn't actually run it and there's still every opportunity to make money off people's ill health." Coming at this from the opposite side of the incredibly deep chasm that is the Canada/U.S. border, I note that the American reaction to the prospect of government-run health care perfectly mirrors the Canadian reaction of privately-run health care: horror and disgust. How two peoples separated by only an invisible line can be so completely and diametrically opposed, I have no idea.
It's not terribly hard to forecast where things are going to go from here. Obama is, for all intents and purposes, a lame-duck President barely one year into his term. Barring something miraculous and unforseen, the GOP will regain clear control of at least one branch of government at the midterms, on the road to what Roland Emmerich has already shown us in last year's film: Jindal/Palin 2012.