Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, December 6, 2010 8:04 pm

Duh du jour

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable! — Lex @ 8:04 pm

A lot of people who voted for Barack Obama have been badly disappointed by some of his decisions while in office. I’m one of them. Many of those people have concluded that there must be some reason other than the obvious why Obama has behaved in such disappointing fashion. I’m not one of them.

Neither is Lawrence Lewis, and fortunately, he’s laying out his thoughts in a venue where even the hardest-core Obama supporters will see them:

So, why would a person of such intelligence make what seems to be so many foolish political decisions? Why does he appear not to come to understand the nature of his opposition? Why does he seem to get rolled on so many issues on so many occasions? Call it The Obama Paradox. Or realize that the answer may lie in the nature of the questions.

The Obama Paradox presumes that the president is a liberal or a progressive, and that he is ceding his principles based on faulty strategies or a disinclination to face confrontation. Many of the president’s more ardent supporters also buy into this presumption, but rather than accept that the buck stops in the Oval Office, they concoct a series of ever more ridiculous rationalizations. It’s always someone else’s fault, and the blame usually falls on Congress, particularly the Republicans, the Conservadems, and the Blue Dogs. But it’s time to consider the possibility that the problem lies with the presumption underlying all these questions and explanations. It’s time to consider that the president accepts centrist and conservative policies because he himself is a centrist or conservative.

This does not mean that President Obama is a Republican, or anything close to a Republican. The Republican Party is not conservative, it is extremist. But as the Republican Party has drifted farther and farther to the fringe, much of the establishment Democratic Party has intrepidly moved into the ideological space the Republican Party abandoned. The Republicans lead this movement to the right, and the Democrats follow, taking the political center with them and leaving the traditional left ever more disenfranchised, disenchanted, and politically alienated. The problem with Barack Obama isn’t that he is worse than establishment Village Democrats, the problem is that he is one of them. He didn’t change Washington, but he is changing what some who consider themselves liberal or progressive are willing to tolerate, accept, and even support.

Precisely. George W. Bush was just dumb, or at least incurious, enough for the notion that he was just Dick Cheney’s puppet to be plausible. (I’m not saying that that take is true, merely that it is not, at first blush, completely unbelievable.) But we know Obama is smart; ergo, we must presume that he knows, or thinks he knows, exactly what he’s doing. We’ve known going in that this was going to have to be the case, and the only thing that confuses me is why, two years after his election, people are willfully considering any other explanation for his choices and behavior.

Besides that, for any administration, Republican or Democrat, smart or dumb, the buck stops with the president. Yeah, Anne Burford was a lousy EPA administrator, but she was doing what President Ronald Reagan wanted. And the simplest explanation for Barack Obama’s consistent behavior up to this point has little to do with Blue Dogs in Congress and everything thing to do with the fact that it is getting him more or less the outcomes he wants.

So what do you do if you’re a dissatisfied Obama customer? You do what citizens have always done: advocate as forcefully and effectively as possible for what you want, as long as it’s legal and constitutional (and if it’s not, advocate for change through the appropriate channels). If you feel strongly enough about a particular issue, and if it’s an issue of fundamental rights  and not just an issue of tactics or strategy, you’re not necessarily obliged to follow what you perceive as Obama’s change or evolution on that issue. The Overton window doesn’t need to be in the same spot of your personal wall as it is in Obama’s. If you think, as I do, that he’s dead wrong about something crucial, you don’t adapt your view to match his. You keep doing and advocating for what you think is right. “Never” is a long time, but I’m still pretty sure you’re never going to convince me that, for example, allowing the president to order U.S. citizens killed without charge or trial is OK — morally, legally or constitutionally. So as long as he keeps trying to do it, I’m going to keep trying to get him impeached.

And come 2012, I’ll be looking to see whether there’s anyone else out there who would make the situation better instead of worse.


1 Comment

  1. I hope not to vote for McCain and Palin again.

    Comment by Fec — Monday, December 6, 2010 10:15 pm @ 10:15 pm

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