Getting Obama Right, Left and Right

by Mar 15, 2010Culture3 comments

I can’t claim very much insight and experience when it comes to politics, but I can say that I’ve sensed that the right-wingers around me don’t have Obama pegged. They tend to view him as the socialist antichrist, someone who can do no right, the most dangerous man in America—if he’s truly in America and not a hologram projected from Saudi Arabia. I had thought that the left-wingers—I hear from NPR and the NY Times—were frustrated that Obama isn’t coming far enough their way. But David Brooks of the NY Times seems to think that the left doesn’t understand him any better than the right does.

What Brooks has written seems quite sensible to me:

In a sensible country, people would see Obama as a president trying to define a modern brand of moderate progressivism. In a sensible country, Obama would be able to clearly define this project without fear of offending the people he needs to get legislation passed. But we don’t live in that country. We live in a country in which many people live in information cocoons in which they only talk to members of their own party and read blogs of their own sect. They come away with perceptions fundamentally at odds with reality, fundamentally misunderstanding the man in the Oval Office.

Read it all.

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  1. Duncan

    “a hologram projected from Saudi Arabia”

    Really, Mark? People you know actually said that?

    If so, we really don’t live in a sensible country regardless of whether Brooks is sensible or not.

  2. Todd Jones

    I think the problem lies in the difficulty of fundamentally understanding anything really massive as it happens (see the disciples pre-Pentecost and “Dewey Defeats Truman”). I feel confident in stating that reality is almost always more complicated than our understanding of it, and that reality at the level of executing government over 300 million is almost necessarily much more so.

    This is not to agree or disagree with Brooks’s fundamental opinion on our President’s “moderate progressivism,” only to point out the need for historical inquiry some generations later (sometimes several generations). It’s the difficulty of achieving objectivity. And the higher any given topic goes on the cared-about scale, the lower its amount of possible objectivity becomes. Again, not to say that Brooks is necessarily more objective, only to say that it’s nearly impossible to be fully aware (and thus fully sensible) about anything on such a grandiose scale at such a short historical distance.

  3. Jeremy Patterson

    Good analysis, Mark. Interesting to see the far left has a similar problem in evaluating the president.