There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a “transformational” president — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system. (Source: Krugman)
My beef is that he doesn't even seem to be trying, and I have to wonder why. He's too smart to think that this post-partisan thing would work, isn't he? Maybe not. Maybe he's just glad to be there, and he'll be as bland as Gerald Ford in his presidential m.o. Or maybe he doesn't really want to be a transformational president.That's the takeaway from the deals he appears to have cut with the Insurance industry this spring. I suspect, though, that there's more going on there than we can know now.
If this was March of 1861, I'm sure I would have been among those unimpressed that Lincoln had what it would take to take the country through the looming secession crisis. Lincoln believed it was still possible to reconcile with the south before Sumter forced his hand. The first inaugural is full of that kind of hope. His initial resistance to emancipation was rooted in his hope that the seceded states would come back and that emancipation would be an insuperable obstacle. He was hoping that the saner, more moderate heads in the seceded states would grab the steering wheel.
In retrospect, we can see that these hopes never had even the remotest chance of realization. It was either let them go or force them to stay. I think it's legitimate to ask whether it would have been better to let the South go, to ask whether the price paid was worth it, especially since anything approaching real freedom didn't come to Black Americans for another century. But I think that we cannot underestimate how regressive and evil was the white supremacist mentality of the people who dominated southern society, the Lost Cause attempts to sugarcoat it notwithstanding.
The world benefited from the containment of the white supremacist narrative that dominated Southern society, if not its complete defeat, at Appomattox. Jefferson Davis represented an imperialist faction in the Senate before secession which wanted to annex Cuba, Mexico, and Central America. It's quite possible that if seceded states had just been allowed to leave they would have focused their resources on such conquests and would have fought for control of the western territories. It was good for the country and for the world that the South lost. Had they existed as an independent nation in the 1930s, don't we have good reason to believe that they would have aligned with the Axis powers?
Do we really believe that the North could have lived in peace with the South if it was just allowed to secede? I doubt it. Violent conflict was going to come sooner or later, so better sooner. Lincoln didn't want the war, but the war came, and he didn't flinch. The question for me is whether Obama understands that he's in an analogous situation now, that he's dealing with the same kind of intransigent mentality.
Once again, it's not about the ordinary people who live in the South, most of whom in any society passively accept without much thought whatever the dominant social narrative is. I know things are more complicated and nuanced on the individual level and that the individual is not wholly defined by his political beliefs. My attack here is focused on the transpersonal racist groupthink, which wherever it dominates a society leads to horrible violence and cruelty. Ordinary folks don't participate in it directly. Usually they do everything they can to deny or filter its governments crimes out so they can live more-or-less decent lives.
But the fact remains, that with those who are leaders, those who are deeply in the girp of it, there is no negotiating; there is no making peace; there is no sitting down to reason together, there is no hope for real compromise. That was true for the Northern abolitionists and unionists in the 19th Century, and it's true now for forward-looking Democrats who care about resolving contemporary injustices. We should always be ready to parley for a truce, but we should never delude ourselves into thinking that these interests will compromise on anything unless forced to. The right understands the power game in a way that reason-centered Liberals do not.
We're involved in a bare-knuckled power fight right now, and the stakes are much higher than you are ever going to hear discussed by the MSM punditocracy. This is not just about healthcare; it's about the nation's future. I thought Obama got that. Maybe like Lincoln, it will take him some time. I've not given up on him yet.