August 17, 2012

Why Some Are So Afraid of Obama, or Methinks the Right Dost Protest Too Much

[In last week's "Weak in Review" post we promised you two quixotic posts on politics this week.  The first introduced the idea of the perfect balance between liberty and societal cohesion.  We call it SCEP.  This post takes that idea and directly applies it as a way to pick between two flawed Presidential candidates. - ed.]

For all the moaning about how spectacularly bad the mass media is that goes on around here, we here at Distasteful Inelegance wanted to belie a misconception that you, dear reader, may have about us.  We don't watch TV news letting the poor quality of coverage angry up the blood.  We don't even have cable anymore.  What we do to stay abreast on current events is read really good long form journalism like this piece from The Atlantic online (You can go ahead and go read it now.  We'll wait.  Oh, you're back.  Welcome.) that takes a very dim - but fair - view of both party's nominees.  Kind of like what was said in this post.  Would that we could have a serious conversation about things that really matter to a nation.

Let's pause for contemplation...
As a contemplative sort, we naturally got to thinking about why people like the President despite the really bad stuff  that he has done in his first term: kill/capture list, Gitmo, Patriot Acting...the list gets disturbingly long.  Larry Lessig puts it best in his critique of the President.  Even if we ignore the scary-illegal stuff they've been up to, Lessig is correct: President Barack Obama has not lived up to the potential of Candidate Obama.  (Of course, that would have been impossible for any mortal, but anyway...)

Now, we will be quick to confess that we probably give more heft to what Mr. Obama says than what he and his administration does.  Clearly, we all suffer from a certain confirmation bias that leads us to overly weight the positive aspects of Our Guy and minimize his weaknesses.  The converse is true for Their Guy.  In our either/or choice for President, we all to often focus on why the Their Guy is going to be a disaster for the country, and don't spend enough time facing the cold hard facts about Our Guy.

While we wrestle with that for a while, let's flip this on it's head for a minute.  If you were a "swaggering, conservative, faux cowboy with authoritarian fantasies that viewed yourself as an independent alpha male taking on the world"*, what Democratic Presidential Candidate would you fear the most?  Probably a highly intelligent center-left fellow of non-WASP heritage who possesses bags of public appeal, right?  You'd probably see, and fear, the fundamental change in society that his election to the highest office in the land might represent.  Ergo, the Right's concerted attempt to recast Obama with streams of false accusations of everything he isn't: radical socialist, Muslim, foreign.

Remember this is the guy that said this in the infamous "you didn't build that" speech:
"Not every government program works the way it’s supposed to.  And frankly, government can’t solve every problem."
You can see how that practically Reagan-esque statement would freak out anyone trying to like The Mitt.  They cry the most when hit that close to home.

Oh, yeah, we remember why we tend to overlook the really bad stuff the current President has done, and why he is the safer choice: most of us appear to have largely ignored  the fact that we have drifted away from the proper balance in public policy that made us a great nation historically.  By just about any measure you can think of - income disparity, wealth concentration, social mobility, access to education, global competitiveness - we are moving away from a system that enables the best our citizens have to offer.  Only one candidate seems to be aware of that fact (We occasionally bump into people that can't honestly recognize that, and all we can do is ask them, "Who was the guest on Hannity last night?").  He is the same guy that said this very reasonable thing:
"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things...we don’t do on our own...So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together." 
Now, despite the fun had at his expense on this blog, you don't particularly need to fear, nor mistrust, nor dislike Gov. Romney.  If we afford him the same benefit of the doubt that we do Mr. Obama and ignore the execrable things he has said trying to get elected, he's a pretty moderate, reasonable guy.  The biggest problem with The Mitt, however, is if elected President he will be leading a party (and has chosen a running mate) that has staked a position diametrically opposed to the above sentiment.  A party whose current policy direction is a radical departure from what we have agreed is a good balance of support for the society at large, and the individual liberty of each of us (it's that hypothetical SCEP thing we are always talking about).  Unfortunately for our democracy, it really is the choice for the greater of two seriously flawed, candidates.  And in many ways it really will be a bigger disaster if we pick Mitt.

[We'll come back to more on that guy Ryan, and why his is a dangerous ideology next week. -ed.]

*This quote comes from a really smart person that I have the pleasure of knowing.  Unfortunately, it comes from a Facebook post that cannot be linked to on the public internet.  (Zuckerberg! <shakes fist in anger>) This will have to do for attribution.

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