Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Obama and the curse of moderation

By Mark LeVine

Set up to fail

George Bush, the former president, and Dick Cheney, the former vice-president, understood that moderation does not bring real change (consider how easily they undid almost every progressive reform enacted under the Clinton administration).

They knew that pushing a radical agenda without compromise was the best way to force American political culture towards their preferred direction.

Moreover, they counted on the fact that after eight years of veering so sharply to the right, merely attempting to return to the centre will seem like a herculean effort, ensuring the radical changes they enacted would remain in place even under a Democratic successor.

Sixteen months into his presidency, Obama has played his part all too well.

The most frightening part of his unwillingness to recognise the fallacy of moderation is that when his policies inevitably fail, the millions of Americans who tentatively supported him, grasping the discourse of "hope" that was the centrepiece of his campaign rhetoric, will veer sharply to the right - back to the very policies that are most responsible for creating the messes that Obama is struggling to clean up.

They will nurse the emotional and political wounds gotten by placing their hopes in Obama - and for millions of white Americans, the mere act of voting for a black man, or merely allowing themselves to believe that he could make their lives better, involved a huge psychological opening - by embracing movements like the Tea Party in ever greater numbers.

American political discourse will become even more poisonous and the radical change necessary to heal the country, and the planet, will be even harder to imagine.

The specter of one of the world's great water systems, the Gulf of Mexico, devastated for years by a completely unnecessary disaster, opens a small window of opportunity for Obama...."

No comments: