Saturday, March 9, 2013

President Obama: "You deserve better" (updated)

No one can ever credibly accuse President Obama of being inconsistent. As a matter of fact, it is his faithfulness to his own guiding principles that has engendered my trust (something his critics find disdainful) - whether I agree with him or not.

So lets once again take a trip in the way-back time machine to look at what he said back in September 2005.
...I firmly believe that whenever we exaggerate or demonize, or oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose. Whenever we dumb down the political debate, we lose. A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate...

Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.
Now lets take a look at what he said in his Weekly Address today.

That means asking ourselves three questions every day: How do we make America a magnet for new jobs? How do we equip more of our people with the skills those jobs require? And how do we make sure that your hard work leads to a decent living?

That has to be our driving focus – our North Star. And at a time when our businesses are gaining a little more traction, the last thing we should do is allow Washington politics to get in the way. You deserve better than the same political gridlock and refusal to compromise that has too often passed for serious debate over the last few years.

That’s why I’ve been reaching out to Republicans and Democrats to see if we can untangle some of the gridlock...

The fact is, America is a nation of different beliefs and different points of view. That’s what makes us strong, and frankly, makes our democratic debates messy and often frustrating. But ultimately what makes us special is when we summon the ability to see past those differences, and come together around the belief that what binds us together will always be more powerful than what drives us apart...

Making progress on these issues won’t be easy. In the months ahead, there will be more contentious debate and honest disagreement between principled people who want what’s best for this country. But I still believe that compromise is possible. I still believe we can come together to do big things. And I know there are leaders on the other side who share that belief.

So I’ll keep fighting to solve the real challenges facing middle-class families. And I’ll enlist anyone who is willing to help. That’s what this country needs now – and that’s what you deserve.
It is that kind of talk that drives the ideologues nuts because it obscures the traditional battle lines with pragmatism. On the right, they realized quite a while ago that their only hope of defeating President Obama was to slap his outstretched hand with total obstruction.

The ideologues on the left have been no less virulent. A common theme has been to call the President "naive." But apparently some go even farther than that and call him "narcissistic."
President Obama is a man of many admirable qualities and strengths. But he has a character flaw worthy of Shakespearean tragedy that is perfectly illustrated in this little snippet. That flaw is the desire common to many tragic anti-heroes imbued with a certain narcissism, to believe that he can do what no others can--in this case, to transcend seemingly impossible political divides by bringing the two parties together to achieve bipartisan policy goals.
As we've come to see over these last 4 years, all of these folks prefer gridlock and/or chaos as long as the lines of purity and ideology are held firm.

But as President Obama said in that first quote - he understands that "a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate." And that is EXACTLY the aim of obstruction - as former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren explained.
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
Yes...we deserve better than that!

There are probably many approaches to dealing with this Republican intransigence. For progressive ideologues, the favored one is to stand firm and fight back...leading to gridlock and/or chaos. But as Mark Schmitt identified quite a while ago, Barack Obama has always had a different approach.
One way to deal with that kind of bad-faith opposition is to draw the person in, treat them as if they were operating in good faith, and draw them into a conversation about how they actually would solve the problem. If they have nothing, it shows. And that's not a tactic of bipartisan Washington idealists -- it's a hard-nosed tactic of community organizers, who are acutely aware of power and conflict.
I believe that it is President Obama's consistency with this approach that is leading to more of a consensus on the idea that the Republican opposition has nothing. In other words, its showing. That's why we won in 2012 and it also might be why there is a glimmer of hope for the development of a common sense caucus.

As President Obama said today:
That’s what this country needs now – and that’s what you deserve.
"What binds us together will always be more powerful than what drives us apart." President Barack Obama


  1. You are naive if you believe that you alone can save the world where everyone else has failed.

    You are cynical if you believe that it isn't worth trying.

    It is hopeful if you believe that the people deserve leaders who try.

    As I get older I realize more and more that to live a meaningful life you have to live as if everything you do will have a lasting, positive consequence. And you have to do so with the full knowledge that *everything* eventually turns to dust in the end.

  2. I've often wondered just how Digby ever became considered a "respected" political blogger of the left, since they're so often wrong.

    Everything I've seen from this President tells me that he knows what he wants, and if there's been something he's mistaken about, it's that he hasn't asked the people to "push" with him. He doesn't make the same mistake twice, and he's turned OFA into that "push."

    1. I remember Digby from the darkest times of the Bush presidency being one of several liberal/progressive bloggers who kept the light burning, as it were. It is easy to forget in these times of Democratic ascension, but those were bad days and it helped to know that there were others out there who were never part of the 90% that approved of Bush.

      Digby was just one of the better voices in that darkness.

      But, like so many times in the past, the voice that is clear in the darkness is often muddled in the light. She was good in her time. Now, not so much.

      I prefer to remember her for the good times.

    2. Chris, I don't forget those days, because I've been politically active for a very long time. Neither did I ever think that there weren't others out there who didn't approve of Bush. All I had to do was to go to a meeting of Democrats. Now, I wasn't active in the blogosphere - I didn't start until 2006 - at the time, so I never saw her writings then.

      The reason I said what I did, is that Digby has shown me that she may be good in opposition, but when in ascendancy, she can't seem to deal with practicalities in making "ideas" into reality, or actual political action. It's a common feature I see among most of the emoprog's, or as I call them, the frustrati. The biggest problem they all have is that while they were running around patting themselves on the back for being "the base of the Democratic Party" and "the new paradigm in political action," the actual base of the Party had no idea they existed, and the old paradigm in political action was getting things done in spite of them.

  3. When the debate becomes about mistakenly mixing a Star Wars & Star Trek reference, I'm glad that I've lost hair because I can't pull it out in frustration. How Obama always manages to keep his eyes on the prize, while having to suffer fools daily, is amazing. We're so fortunate to have him as our president.

    1. I could not have said it better!

  4. First thing Monday morning I got hit with that naive meme listening to my favorite radio show. Normally I'm able to blow off the poutrage. This time, not so much for some reason. Days later, when Roger "The Hutt" Ailes came out with his "lazy" screed, I knew why. They're pretty much the same thing. I don't expect anything more from a racist POS like Ailes, but to hear a progressive voice use up scarce resources to promote a Republican meme makes me wanna say G-R-R-R-R. Times like these you find out who can handle themselves in a crisis, and who is most likely to go all Dr. Zachary Smith on your posterior as Harry "Blue Ninja" Reid would say.

    Speaking of Har-ray, was that a beautiful trap he laid out at the Filibuster tar pits, or what? And looky here what he dun' caught: a variety of DoDo Birds, a few Rinosaurs, a veritable gaggle of Loons, and a shaky Turtle that can't stop widdlin' in his pants ('cos he's scared of a girl). Unfortunately, among these sad creatures marked for extinction, there was no self respect to be found. On a positive note, who knew our AG had such a dry sense of humor? Zing!