Thursday, January 28, 2010
I'll try to make this quick.
President Obama's State of the Union address last night was impressive overall: stirring yet completely conversational; overwhelmingly optimistic in its reaffirmation of the American ideal, yet acknowledging of the difficulties facing this country and its people; conciliatory to both Democrats and Republicans while still taking each party firmly to task. On this last subject, I've honestly never seen a president in my lifetime try so hard to create partisan amity -- with the understanding that we'll never overcome our current hardships without at least some measure of it -- only to have it spit back in his face at every turn.
As it stands now, the Republicans, who've turned obstinate group-think into a kind of art form, are never going to concede even an inch to Barack Obama. It's just that simple. Meanwhile, some on the progressive side continue to, ironically, take the same tack -- slamming the president over and over again because they feel he's somehow betrayed their Utopian ideals by not being liberal enough. When it comes to the latter group, I'll refer you to the latest piece in the Huffington Post by Cesca, who nailed it so flawlessly that I wish I'd been able to say what he said in exactly the same way. He perfectly addresses -- and blows big, gaping holes in -- the notion, espoused by people like Paul Krugman, that Obama has somehow "sold out" the progressive movement entirely. The reality is that Barack Obama remains one of the most progressive presidents this country has seen in the last century, and that should never be discounted or even diminished.
And that leads me to back to the Republicans -- the people the president is taking extraordinary pains to compromise with and offer concessions to, even at his own peril, because he once again understands that it's necessary for this country to work together as one to overcome the daunting challenges facing us right now. The response of conservatives to the State of the Union address was so laughably predictable you could've written it in your head even before Bob McDonnell took to a podium flanked by a black woman and an Asian-American guy to deliver the official GOP rebuttal. As usual, Republicans usurped credit for what they say were the most potent ideas pitched by Obama, claiming that they were, in fact, conservative ideas -- the implication being that even Obama realizes the Republicans are right so, really, why bother having him as president at all when Americans could have the real deal. But that's the point, and it's something that, again, progressives need to heed (and conservatives need to really get through their thick heads): Obama isn't a Republican. He's not a conservative, even though he may accept that certain conservative ideals can be good for the country.
One of the things I respect most about Barack Obama is what perpetually infuriates the extreme elements within both parties: They call him a centrist who in trying to please everyone can't please anyone. While I fully understand the dangers of taking the middle road, especially when your political enemies in the opposition party will always attack you because that's what they're programmed to do, deep-down most Americans want a president willing to represent all Americans. Granted, those who hate Barack Obama, the true lunatic fringe given a resonant voice by Fox News and talk radio, will likely never change their minds about him; the guy could reanimate the dessicated corpse of Ronald Reagan and together they could save a busload of unborn Christian fetuses from going over a cliff while singing I Love This Bar in two-part harmony and the Palin Nation still wouldn't stop calling him a socialist, Marxist, foreign, terrorist-loving whatever-the-hell. But the fact is that -- and how many times can I say this -- pipe dream or not, this country cannot rebound from its current crisis without some form of bipartisanship. It just can't be done.
Obama realizes this, and hopefully he convinced at least a few of his critics, and even more of the average Americans who don't already have a preconceived partisan opinion, to do the same. And if he didn't get through the people in the former group, let's hope the ones in the latter finally speak the hell up and put them in their place. Because our country can't afford to be hamstrung by stubborn ideologues for even one more day.
The train has to leave, with our without you on it.