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September 20th, 2010

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10:54 pm - A Disturbing Preference for Demagogues
I was quite disturbed by this NYT Op-Ed piece -
Obama’s bloodless rationality has helped spawn the right’s bloodletting of irrationality. His ivory tower approach to the nation’s fears and anxieties about the economy gave rise to a tower of angry babble. Tea Party is basically a big tent for anger.

The president’s struggle to connect and inspire passion is a dispiriting contrast to, as Yeats said, the worst, full of passionate intensity.

The first African-American president, who wrote in his memoir that he trained himself as a young man not to let his anger show in a suspicious white society, now faces anger on an unprecedented scale from a mostly white movement.
Yes, columnist Maureen Dowd is well known for being a total idiot, but I've seen similar views from many sources, including a large number of progressives. I both don't understand and am somewhat horrified. I don't want an aggressive president, I don't want a loud podium-pounding demagogue, such people inherently worry me and I do not trust them.

I want political leaders who are intelligent, thoughtful, and have both compassion the ability to think clearly. I don't think Obama is doing enough, but that's a very different matter from whether he's "inspiring". I would have thought that most people had enough of loudmouth yammering blowhards with Shrub, but clearly an abundance of both progressives and conservatives prefer exactly that sort of leader, and that baffles me. Yes, I want a president who sounds like he knows what he's talking about and who seems to be fairly intelligent and well-educated, but that's very different indeed from what I hear many people wanting or complaining about the lack of with Obama.

What matters far more to me is what he accomplishes, and he's done a lot of good, with healthcare and various programs to protect people from ultra-wealthy greed-heads – creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and having Elizabeth Warren oversee its implementation is an excellent step in this regard. He could clearly do much more, especially for LGBT rights. In any case, what matters to me is actual performance, both Obama's and his party's, which reminds me of an excellent analysis of the Democratic and Republican parties in terms of what they actually accomplish.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(10 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2010 06:52 am (UTC)
Possibly it's a combination of trying to fight fire with fire, and also that people have noticed that it's the loudmouths who get attention and notoriety.

As an analogy, lots of progressive Christians complaining that everyone thinks Christian==fundie, simply because the fundies are loud, noticeable, and, yes, inspiring; compared to a fundie, a nonaggressive Christian is "ineffective", in a way, at spreading positive perceptions of who they are and what they do. Similarly, for politics, one might think that a moderate and quiet president is "ineffective" at showing everyone how great of an idea it is to be liberal and sane.

This still leaves open the question of whether effective advertising for one's approach is as important as what's actually being done. I could see someone arguing that in the long term, what matters is that people buy into the high-profile advertising that a president does for their viewpoint as a matter of course, as well as just what gets done in a particular four year span. The argument being "let's make sure the liberal viewpoint is entrenched deeply in people's minds for longer than this president's term". Of course... in the even longer term, such advertising is only going to be effective on the people listening right now, and progress and change may stick longer than our lifespans. IDK, it's a grab bag.

I don't see any point in complaining about the president when he's doing a pretty decent job, I can't imagine anyone more dramatically liberal having managed to actually get elected, and it's so much better than anything done by a president since I was old enough to have a voting impact anyway. However, as long as there are politicians, there will be a lot of complaining from both sides, because some people just like to complain about politicians.

Edited at 2010-09-21 06:52 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2010 07:46 am (UTC)
I semi-agree, but I think that the job of any political leader is not just to set policy, but also to sell that policy to the populace. They should be changing the political discussion, so that the feel of the country is further in the direction that they believe we should be moving. It's one thing to legislate for equal rights for gay people - but they should also be making speeches about how this is a vital part of any free democracy.
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2010 10:11 am (UTC)
"I would have thought that most people had enough of loudmouth yammering blowhards with Shrub, but clearly an abundance of both progressives and conservatives prefer exactly that sort of leader, and that baffles me."

Most people are ruled by their emotions instead of logic. Demagogues appeal to emotions. Demagogues, including some pundits on MSNBC, spew slogans for people to chant and have visions for people to follow.
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
I agree about not wanting a demogogue. What I'd like is someone stirred by anger at fixable injustice and cruelty not getting fixed, and driven by a passion to do what's in their power to do. And I'd like more officials to speak the truth about who's being the obstacle in dealing with all this, rather than falling back on bland generalizations and refusal to ever point a finger at the people who made the mess and profit from it.

I like to think those are qualities compatible with prudence and temperance.
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
What's kinda horrifying about Dowd is that she's right: people vote based on their guts.

What's really horrifying about Dowd is that she implies that Heidegger is right about humans not being rational animals. The Republicans figured this out long ago. The Democrats never did, and this is why they keep getting beaten over the head, the victories of 2006 and 2008 notwithstanding.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2010 11:14 pm (UTC)
he's a center-right corporatist

I run into this claim a lot, and I'm not convinced. No, he's not as far too the left as either you or I, but there's a big difference between far left and center right. However, the fact that he and his agenda isn't just being opposed by jingoistic nativists and racists, it's also being strongly opposed by a multitude of ultra-wealthy corporate leaders in fields ranging from banking and finance to health insurance. If he was a corporate tool, we wouldn't be seeing anything like the amount of money being thrown at opposing him or the Democratic party in general. There are plenty of crazy tea-bagger bigots opposing him, but they're being funded by ultra-wealthy people who sure look like they care more about money than racism.

He's also clearly coming out of Chicago machine politics and so has the (grossly mistaken, at least when dealing with elected Republican officials) that compromise and cooperation are useful and won't automatically be used against him.
[User Picture]
Date:September 23rd, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)
Is there any reason to suspect he's anything other than a center-right democratic socialist? I could see him playing from the middle in any of the major British parties. While I think his pro-regulation stance is pretty mild, he does firm in his stated positions.

I also doubt he's blinded by "compromise" rhetoric to the degree sometimes implied; I blame the political realities created by some cowardice from the Democratic legislature. Even Pelosi, for all her bold marshaling, is, in my view, a weak moral force.

I suspect that in the absence of the current insanity, Obama would probably lead from an Eisenhower-Kennedy type position; hawkish, pro civil rights, anti-corporatist, fairly conservative, boldly practical.
[User Picture]
Date:September 21st, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
If Obama were passionate, just think of all the “angry black man” rhetoric they would deploy!

Frankly, I prefer him to be on the Mace Windu side of the Samuel L. Jackson Scale of Black Emotion.
[User Picture]
Date:September 23rd, 2010 12:29 am (UTC)
I have every reason to believe Obama's posture is both preferable and more effective. Hotheads have moments; leaders have history. In fact, most of his PR flubs have come from Gibbs spouting off in an un-Obama-like way. It's also worth remembering that anger is the antidote of empathy. If an electorate gets a sense that anger is being directed against them rather than on their behalf, that electorate has been lost. People like Joe McCarthy, Palin, and Rand Paul are successful not because they are capable, but because they are will-less and bend easily to the present mood. Demagogues rarely survive re-election without a coup.

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