Aug 15, 2011

The trouble with the moral high ground

This is exactly right about Obama, and also exactly what is wrong with Obama's strategy:—
"Obama acts entirely within the tradition of mainstream African American political strategy and tactics. The epitome of that tradition was the non-violence of the Civil Rights Movement, but goes back much further in time. It recognizes the inequality of power between whites and blacks. Number one: maintain your dignity. Number two: call your adversaries to the highest principles they hold. Number three: Seize the moral high ground and Number four: Win by winning over your adversaries, by revealing the contradiction between their own ideals and their actions. It is one way that a oppressed people struggle. I don’t think those students got their sandwiches the first day, but they won in the end... Obama sits at that table, like they did at the counter. Boehner and McConnell and Cantor clown around, mugging for the camera, competing to ritually humiliate Obama, to dump ketchup on his head. Obama is winning. Democrats are uniting behind him, although some white progressives think that they could do the job better. Independents are flocking to him. Even some Republicans are getting disgusted with their Washington leaders." — Steve Benen, Washington Monthly
You can spot where the analogy breaks down, can't you? The battle for civil rights took place over several decades and justice won out in the end — as Obama is fond of quoting 'The arc of history is long but it bends towards justice." The battle between Democrats and Republicans producers no 'winner'. There is no 'end.' America will not one day turn 'Democrat'. There is no 'arc.' Obama's patience gets to work its magic over the course of four years and then his time is up.


  1. I was mostly with you until the last statement. I'm not thrilled with how he's performed in the first term, but I don't see anyone on the Republican side who's going to win the next election. As Bush proved in 2004, it's really hard to unseat an incumbent president. A lot had to go Clinton's way (namely, Perot) for the first Bush to only go one term.

  2. Oh no. Gloomy Political Outlook Monday chez Shone?

    I loved the man way back--my sister told me about him when he was first coming up on the Illinois scene--but didn't think he would even run. Then didn't think he could get nominated etc. etc.

    If Obama is playing the long game, he's won with that strategy before. Plus, after watching Bachmann field (if that is the word I want for obsessively repeating "I am running for the presidency of the United States," in case we thought she was trying out for the Minnesota Vikings, I guess) David Gregory's questions about gay Americans--she strikes me as potentially the best thing to happen to a Democratic president since Goldwater.