The Strength in Obama’s Weakness

Some thoughts written in defence of President Obama’s current trajectory.


I feel the need to post on something other than work or journaling type stuff, so I’ll turn to a subject I once used to post much more vociferously upon: politics. And I’ll plunge right into the heart of the typical contemporary debate regarding President Obama. The consensus, given the way the media portrays it and random polls convey it, is that Obama is failing to meet the expectations of the American populace. There are two reasons for this: 1) the American populace is accustomed to a dog and pony show when it comes to politics, not serious discussions of policy; and 2) Obama’s insistence on diplomacy at all costs makes him appear momentarily weak.

A few weeks ago, I was drinking some Laphrioag at a bar with a friend, and as I am wont to do while sitting and imbibing liquor, I began expounding ideas on things I have no right to expound ideas on. I had not really ever voiced it before, but it came to me as I discussed Obama’s performance (and invariably defended it) that there may possibly be some potential positive long-term outcomes from Obama’s seemingly weak focus on bilateralism during the healthcare reform.

Certainly, it is inarguable that his lack of strong direction in stuffing reform and a more progressive agenda through the pipeline of legislature is hurting his administration politically. And in the coming elections, this political loss will result in the rise again of the GOP and all of the policies that have so riddled this nation with woe and delusion. However, think for a moment of that young GOP senator who has been witness to Obama’s insistence on diplomacy, bilateralism, and transparent exercise of power. It may be that this senator, and others like him/her, will have taken a little kernel of the bigger picture from Obama’s modeling, and that this will enact a subtle shift in the dynamic of our nation’s politics from that of divisive, short-term pose striking, to that of a stance of greater active listening, greater long-term vision, and a greater ability to simply be willing to listen to the other side. Even if and when the GOP once again dominates the discussion (which–let’s be realistic here–it inevitably will).

Does that sound like wishful thinking? Perhaps. Though it may be hurting Obama and the Democratic Party politically, we need to take a step back from the political damage and look at what the bigger picture. A dogged insistence on trying to make a broken democracy function like an ideal democracy demonstrates just what could be possible if opposing sides were willing to work together. And that is a lesson that people who think and reflect will duly note.

Obama has demonstrated that he is willing to take political damage and risk unpopularity as a president, even as he demonstrates a strong commitment to long-term policy making and a diplomatic approach to brokering legislation. In my book, he is performing exactly as I would expect a great leader to perform. In any case, history will be the greatest determiner of his impact.

Author: manderson

I live in NYC.

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