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May 14, 2009
Cabin'd, Cribb'd, Confined

You have to wonder how soon the people crazy enough to win the president in this country come to regret it?

While I was honest during the campaign that Mr. Obama was not the progressive candidate of my dreams, that's not at all the same (as I should not have to say) as not wanting him to win.

Since the inauguration, I've been watching President Obama with sympathy. Caught between his vow of being committed to doing what the voters asked for, and the reality of the complex international economic collapse. Trapped between demands for peace and the impossibility of leaving the Middle East now that we've lit the match. Paralyzed by the need to simultaneously rebuild this country and almost all our international relationships. Torn between a desire for "intelligence" and the growing (albeit far too slowly) outrage over his refusal to let us, as a nation, publicly condemn the use of torture.

Hobbled by the rotting legacy of the Bush/Cheney years, he's discovered that not only can a country with a population of millions not turn on a dime, but that most of Congress is all about doing whatever it takes to make things better--unless what it takes is making hard decisions and committing to personal (or personal campaign donor) sacrifices.

He also has the Left's most enduring blind spot--the odd perception that the Right is, in any way other than purely rhetorically, interested in "bipartisanship" or in reaching across the aisle. The Right doesn't share. That's one of their defining characteristics. They don't care about working together for any common good. They don't share. My country. My god. My oil. My power. My rules. My success. My way, or not at all.

This is one in way in which I think President Obama's background of community organizing might really hurt him. At the community level, everyone is too close to the individual people whose lives are at stake to refuse negotiate in reasonably good faith. People simply must learn to compromise. At the national level, representatives (and the government overall) are simply too remote to recognize any individual whose identity isn't connected with, say, a five-figure campaign donation.

Since Republicans turned Congress into an all-or-nothing grudge match by over-free use of filibusters, many of the checks and balances envisioned by our too-rational founders are weak, at best. Bonehead & Crookface's joint efforts to castrate Congress with signing statements has left a complicated imbalance of power that, lawyers being lawyers, would probably take freeze-framing the entire country for a decade while the courts argued it out to solve.*

I don't have any answers. Just sympathy.


* "... whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within."

I'm just saying. Be careful of those checks and balances. They protect the government from the people as much as the people from the government.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:16 AM


VERY good point about Republicans' unwillingness to share being one of the party's defining characteristics (at least the current incarnation thereof). I'm actually old enough to remember when there were reasonable Republicans with whom one could have actual policy debates.

Posted by: Elayne Riggs at May 17, 2009 09:49 AM