****Disclaimer: I am an apolitical critical thinker, neither Republican nor Democrat; a Canadian too bored by the politics in my own country to write about them.
I’ve just bought a copy of the latest issue of The Economist—one of these instances when I like to think I have a civic duty to care about what goes on in the world, outside my personal bubble (just in case you felt like generalizing about the apathy of Millenials). The front page has an image of Obama shoulder deep into the ocean, and is titled: “The man who used to walk on water”.
While dismissing idle comments linking Obama’s aloofness to his not being “buddy-buddy” with members of the congress (this is not a gossip column for crying out loud), reading the ‘Leaders’ section, page 15, it’s hard to decide whether people are mainly angry at the chaos engendered by Obamacare, or if they’re primarily blaming the US President for his lack of foresight. “Not all the barbs aimed at Mr Obama are fair”, writes The Economist, “But the excuse that it is all someone else’s fault is wearing thin”. After all, if we can’t expect the President of the United States to be held accountable, then from whom can we expect it?
“He began his first term during the worst recession in 80 years. And the Republicans who shut down parts of the federal government last month flirted recklessly with default bear much of the blame for Washington’s disarray”.
The article continues,
“In the days before October 1st, when the online health-insurance exchange opened, he seemed blithely unaware that anything was amiss. Using it would be “real simple”, he told voters in Maryland on September 26th; it would work the “the same way you shop for a TV on Amazon”. Alas, it did not”.
It begs the question, is the real problem that the President showed a lack of awareness as to what was going on, had not predicted all the hurdles that could, and would, stand in his way, or at the very least, that he didn’t seem to have a contingency plan? Is this another variant of the ‘ivory tower’ conundrum? Sure, Mr. Obama is probably busy juggling several situations all at once, making sure they stay up in the air, careful not to let them crash down on his watch, but a President’s job is coordinating, making decisions, being the last one to make the call; it’s what people elected him in office for; it is a merciless position to be in (though not without its advantages as well). Moreover, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, the pragmatic answer to the universal healthcare aspiration he had articulated prior to his election in office, has become, in the public’s eye, ‘his’ project (hence the affectionate moniker); this is an ‘all-eyes-on’ situation. It makes one wonder, given the enormous importance this issue has taken over the last years, with Republicans awaiting for any mishap to occur in order to discredit the president’s effort: shouldn’t details have be planned along lofty ideals? The old say is ‘politicians campaign in poetry, but govern in prose’, but as well-pointed out by an article in The Independent back in 2009: “We can be sure that the poetry will continue to flow from an orator as gifted as President Obama. But now begins the difficult task of getting the prose right too”. Today, we may ask: now, where’s the prose? Then again, judging a single person for an entire administration may not be fair at all. Except that’s what we do; as citizens, we’re usually unjust that way. We only get to judge the near-final product, not what goes on behind the scene.
“A man with little interest in details and a disdain for business, Mr Obama tried to impose a gigantic change on the whole country all at once and far too casually”.
So perhaps the part that is bugging us the most comes down to a lack of pragmatism after all, is it not? In exchange of the oval office, our demand is noticeable results. And swiftly too. With quacks and lack of progress, we start asking questions.
It can’t be that President Obama was naive to begin with; it is, for one, improbable, whereas the unlikely possibility is much too worrisome to consider. So then, how is it he just cannot get the nitty-gritty stuff—I will steer clear of calling it “easy”, and leave it to Mr. Clinton’s discretion—right?
Following the hype of “Change” and “Yes, We Can”, which were nice projects, what remains? What happens when it’s time to turn ideals into realities? The disenchantment continues, “Forget the Nobel halo—and roll up your sleeves”, exclaims the article; the prodigal son, are we surprised, is someone who only sold pixie dust. One thing is sure: we, as a society, have a low tolerance for empty promises, and all the finger-pointing at Republicans is getting old.
“Under Mr Obama, America seems rudderless and its power is being squandered. A more engaged president would handle the Republicans— and the rest of the world— with more skill”.
“There is a personal tragedy in this: a talented man who too often does not follow through.”
What to think? Well, a romantic such as myself might want to cling to hope. For I remember when the results of the 2008 election came through—Obama was talking directly to my generation—I remember where I was, that it felt like a turn in History, and this is why I ask:
Can the man who vaunted about “The Audacity of Hope” please stand up?