This post is cobbled together from my recent engagement in one of the thousands of Facebook scuffles going on about the current direction of the country. Saw a poll the other day which astonishingly offered that 64% of US citizens feel that America is headed in the wrong direction. Clearly, Republicans have been extremely successful at winning the battle of rhetoric, and if Obama is going to accomplish anything, and stand any glimmer of hope of being re-elected, he needs to start fighting. Now.
Let’s discuss what one commenter called “the extremely dismal performance of the Obama administration to date.” But here’s some context: President Obama, who was elected on a platform of change, hope, and vision, has had literally every major agenda point which he ran on, which most Americans supported to an overwhelming degree, deliberately stymied by anti-American, lowest-common-denominator Republicans who spread fear and lies to obstruct the goals of this administration. Let’s remember, Repubs have no vision of their own to pursue – their sole motivation and marching orders are to BRING THIS MAN DOWN. Whatever Obama says, they will oppose. (Many of them don’t even believe he’s actually an American!) This is their only plan right now, because a strategy of turning the country against Obama (which obviously is working) is the only thing which will lead to them regaining the White House. Which obviously is their end goal. Republicans have zero interest in “progress” or “change” or any other wimpy liberal catch-phrases. SO… trying to engage and mollify them (i.e. what Obama has been doing) is a zero-sum game… these people just aren’t interested.
A LOSING STRATEGY…
Sadly, this single-minded, obstructionist strategy has worked, is working, and will continue to work. With no strong motions coming out of the White House to counteract conservative rhetoric, we’re witnessing a tremendous shift in public attitudes toward Obama, who has committed a tactical mistake which he absolutely could have avoided. Unlike his predecessor, Obama does listen to those with alternate viewpoints, however rather than proceed forward with strength (like GWB) on the agenda which he was elected to enact, he’s made the crucial error of trying to appease these people. (Remember, people who are not interested in being appeased!) Which is why we’re ending up with a healthcare plan which isn’t worth the paper its printed on, tied up with bows and ribbons to the insurance companies. Obama – or perhaps more accurately, weak-kneed, apologetic Congressional Democrats – have had to make so many concessions to the minority party (whose know-nothing agenda during the Bush admin directly caused the state of the job market and current economy), that the hope and vision he once promised now seems unreachable. And make no mistake, this is a direct result of Republican intervention and the spreading of fear and lies, and it’s the most anti-American, anti-progress agenda I’ve ever witnessed.
GREAT ARTISTS DON’T BORROW, THEY STEAL.
What Obama needs to do is learn from GWB. To realize that when it comes to implementing large-scale policy, catering to the other perspective doesn’t help – it just gets in the way. (In Bush’s case, these policies were evil, e.g. invading a country preemptively; in Obama’s case the policies are more along the lines of “what can we do to help Americans who can’t get a break?” Which conservatives have been very successful at contorting into some sort of evil, foreign brand of Socialism.) Obama needs to say “Don’t like it, conservatives? Fuck off. You guys messed things up beyond belief, and now it’s our turn.” But going halfsies on this doesn’t work; Obama just looks like a waffler who can’t back up his vision with rhetorical leadership.
If Obama weren’t doing so much appeasing, we might begin to recognize the guy so many of us worked so hard for during the campaign. Did GWB ask permission of the liberals when he marched off to war? No, he fucking DID it, and the country followed. Clearly GWB was misguided, ignorant, and evil, but he knew how to lead with strength, and Obama desperately needs to heed this lesson. I appreciate that Obama is trying to appeal to Republican citizens; it’s admirable and obviously his political gregariousness was one of the things that many of us found most appealing about him. But Obama is losing the war of rhetoric, in inexorable, catastrophic fashion. And time is running out. The end result of this (after the inevitable blowback of the swiftly approaching midterms) is that Obama will not be re-elected, and all of that “hope and change” stuff is going to be shuffed off as impossible idealism – unless our president starts making some bold moves, and soon. Right now he’s coming off as Republican-lite, and this is shocking to those of us who believed he would do what he promised to do.
On a related note, my friend Jen passed on this excellent clip of Rachel Maddow and Michael Beschloss discussing Obama’s first year. I used to watch Rachel every night, before my free MSNBC tragically went away with the digital transition. (Still get dumbass Fox though.)
And finally, if you haven’t read Arianna Huffington’s MASTERLY article (“Hope” Has Been a Bust, It’s Time For Hope 2.0), you MUST read it. I label very few things as “essential” reading, but this absolutely qualifies. Cheers, all.