"Yes We Can" is one of the most powerful messages in modern U.S. politics, at once encompassing the possibility to better our social contract through "change" and realize the American Dream.
It is simple, participatory, and ambitious. Unlike the rallying cry of Cesar Chavez's ¡Sí se puede!--Yes It Can Be Done!--Yes We Can offers a grammatical throwdown: it is a first-person challenge that assumes we can perfect our union--together. It is more than the audacity of one to hope. It is the conviction that we have skin in this game therefore let us unite to accomplish goals for the common good.
It is within this context that the questions about the economy, health care, education, immigration, or jobs for the first, live online Hispanic roundtable with President Obama are so heart-wrenching:
Milt Espinoza, one of the more than 14 million out-of-work Americans, reminds the President in a comment, "Those of us, who are unemployed, are not looking for "welfare" checks catered to long-time out of work white collar professional..no..we want to get up in the morning, get back to the office, utilize our talents and educational backgrounds to the max, and live the American dream."
@hwsanchez tweets, "Mr. President, if you are committed to immigration reform why wasn't it done when the majority in Congress was democrat?
In an email, Yolanda asks about the banks not helping homeowners with options such as re-financing to avoid foreclosure: "I promise you it will help put more food on the table for persons like myself and my husband, both with serious illnesses."
The underlying theme in these questions is not the ideological anger behind, for example the debt-ceiling showdown(s). It is not the corrosive cynicism that settles once the curtain is pulled back and political Wizards of Oz are outed as sad, small, sorry little old men who tweet naked pictures or use campaign funds to support mistresses.
Rather, each question reveals that these Americans are struggling with desencanto, a disillusionment born of a broken spell. Like millions of other voters, they buried political apathy and exhaustion after eight Bush years to vote--many for the first time--for "change" with the tangible hope that President Obama would apply a tourniquet to stem the hemorrhaging of the global financial that started in the U.S.; that the stalled economy would re-start, lubricating different sectors to put Americans back to work; that we would narrow the gaps of inequality exacerbated by growing poverty; that we would see our political divisions like houses in a subdivision: we may live in individual homes and be drawn to different interests, but all of us make up this neighborhood.
The President is not the One (nor is he Anti-Woman or Dr. Spock). If Mr. Obama has painfully learned that campaigning is different than governing, millions don't have that luxury: a father worries about being labeled "unemployable" because he has been out of work for six or more months; a family has asked the Bank of America for a loan modification, only to be told that if approved, it is reported as being in default, thus ruining credit for seven years which will make re-financing harder; an illegal immigrant mother lives terrified that at a moment's notice her family will be smashed to shards for something as innocuous as not signaling a left turn with a blinker.
The housing crisis will one day bottom out. The economy will eventually recover. But will the dashed hopes of recession battered Americans that underpin these questions be restored?