Quitting the Obama Revolution: The Fickle Nature of American Politics
Previously published on May 12, 2010
How quickly we quit on each other when our desires are not immediately appeased or reality forces us to seek out practical answers. With the first year of the Obama Administration marked by several massive initiatives to change the direction of our Nation, social inertia has created growing dissent against Democrats that could cost them big in the 2010 mid-term elections. Although policy disputes have consistently driven dissent within the ranks of political adversaries, much more is going on in our society when it comes to our fickle political nature.
In many respects, the Obama Administration has invited severe and, many times, unjust criticism of its policies. During the George W. Bush years, large groups of Americans felt shutout of government while only a small inner circle of politicians and business leaders seemed to have any sway over our Country. As such, the Obama Administration has tried to be particularly sensitive to the needs of outside opinions, thus extremist groups, which do not get their way, have the political room to discredit and attack Obama, because his Administration will listen to the fears of individuals.
This is why on issues like healthcare and energy reform Americans see campaign-like ads as well as rallies sponsored by members of the extreme right. Certainly, transparency and responsive government will improve our political system in the long-term; however, Americans are unaccustomed to this kind of leadership. At the end of the Cold War, our Country already polarized by the threat of the Soviet Union was left without an external enemy, so it had to find one internally.
Granted, the Clinton era up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq was marked with a reasonable amount of cooperation and compromise, especially under the threat of terrorism, but the Bush Administration's attitude and eventual failures revived rifts created by extreme polarization. This ultimately means all political efforts to include outside views are going to be seen as weaknesses by proponents while opponents can use new levels of transparency in the face of mistakes as a weapon.
Quite clearly, the Obama Administration is far from perfect on all fronts while it can always work harder to be more transparent, cooperative, and responsive, but it must also pay homage to our political heritage by showing its teeth and drawing a little blood in the face of disruptive, disrespectful dissent. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a growing number of diplomatic successes has demonstrated she can balance both Obama's vision of the political system and the old ways of doing business better than the President.
The Obama Administration could well be a transitional leadership, which creates a more benevolent political world, but Americans are accustomed to strong, aggressive leadership that can unapologetically get things done without public controversy. Americans like their candidates to talk a big game on the campaign trail, yet they want a smooth ride once the rubber hits the road. A smart politician will always lay low until there is credit to be had while a good leader ensures things get done. With so many crises to address, the only way the many critical and neglected issues our Nation faces can be resolved is by the President deferring to the experts.
Like the Captains of Industry and the Generals of our Armed Forces, Obama has delegated his objectives, as well as responsibilities, to his junior officers, including his new czars. Unfortunately for the President, the private sector thrives on this kind of operating structure, yet critics of the public sector label it as government expansion and undemocratic. In doing so, the Obama Administration is faced with another cultural barrier against change. Although the private sector has its shortcomings, it also provides examples of ways government can be more effective, efficient, and responsive without undermining the nature of our Democratic-Republican structure of government. Both congress and the executive branch need to defer their power to experts more capable of solving problems so long as our leaders ensure those experts are fulfilling the interests of US citizens.
Furthermore, the Obama Administration is also a victim of its own popularity as well as circumstances. Then Senator Obama tried to tamp down expectations during the 2008 election, yet the Democrats, being the anti-Republicans, and Obama, being the anti-Bush, were seen as the go to guys with all the right answers. People inappropriately felt if Obama and the Democrats were truly in power with a stronger majority, everything would be okay, instantly. With the Democrats struggling to resolve issues, which simply cannot be solved by government alone, especially within a few months, reality pushes voters to see Obama as a failure when their expectations were far too high.
In all, Obama and the Congressional Democrats have tried to help the Country, yet their efforts are far from perfect, especially since they need to appease dissenters who refuse to budge on almost every issue. The downside to democracy is the need to compromise whenever we have a better solution available as perfect solutions are no good unless the People support them. Meanwhile, quality change takes time. In truth, many of the major slipups from the Obama Administration result from our leaders trying to play politics as they get things done. Obama is a skilled politicians and leader, but he is still learning to do his job as all Presidents must in an environment that permits virtually no learning curve. Patience is a virtue Americans, who want lasting, effective change, must learn.