Micah Sifry writes an important essay about hope, change and disillusionment: "The Obama Disconnect: What Happens When Myth Meets Reality".
[T]he image of Barack Obama as the candidate of "change", community organizer, and "hope-monger" (his word), was sold intensively during the campaign. Even after the fact, we were told that his victory represented the empowerment of a bottom-up movement, powered by millions of small donors, grassroots volunteers, local field organizers and the internet. [...] The truth is that Obama was never nearly as free of dependence on big money donors as the reporting suggested, nor was his movement as bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied. [...]
The problem for Obama and the Democrats today, as they head into 2010, is that much of their activist base appears to have swallowed too much of the wrong half of the myth: they thought that Obama would be more of a change-agent, and never really embraced their own role.
I wrote about this in 2008: "The election of Obama did not empower people. It empowered politicians. ... Hope and Change got people on board the Democratic bus. Political convenience will throw them under it."
Sifry has recognized a deep flaw in the Democratic/Progressive message: Progressives preach "empowerment", yet they constantly move power to Washington, DC and away from local and state government. As a matter of pure statistics, individual voters have more power at the local level than the State level, and more power at the State level than the Federal level. Decentralization + voter mobility is even more empowering.
And yet, power continues to consolidate in Washington, DC.
Ezra Klein has been arguing that "a political system too dysfunctional to avert crisis is also too dysfunctional to respond to it." David Roberts has said that critically important issues rest "in the myopic, sociopathically indifferent hands of Ben Nelson, who represents one-half of one percent of U.S. citizens". And you know what? They're right. While we may disagree on the policies that ought to be enacted - and on whether the problem is the filibuster or the public choice theory problems - it is true that there are many structural, political flaws in our collective decision-making process that make it difficult, perhaps impossible, to address difficult problems effectively.
Progressives continue empowering Washington, DC, but what they are ultimately empowering is a Single Point of Failure.
This discrepancy between the Democratic message and reality represents an opportunity for Republicans to both discredit the Democratic message and pursue a better, more reality-based agenda. If Republicans want to pick up these voters alienated by the Obama Myth and tap into America's deep, populist interest in limited government and individual freedom, they should take advantage of this opportunity to legitimately "empower the people".