Friday, January 22, 2010

Obama Must Take Back the Narrative.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell, an Associate Professor of Politics and African American studies at Princeton University, described - as a guest on Bill Moyer's Journal - President elect Obama's narrative as a somewhat collaborative one, that allowed we, the people to project all our hopes and dreams of returning America to what we think it should be after the Bush administration did everything in their power to destroy what our founding fathers had built.

"...one of the amazing things about the Obama candidacy was this sort of sense of what the story was. And of Obama's narrative... I think that the brilliance of the Obama campaign had to do with creating a sort of outline figure of who Obama was. A figure of change, of hope, a representation of what America most wanted itself to be. But what was amazing was how at the level of very ordinary people, there was an opportunity to project onto Barack Obama all of your greatest hopes." -- Melissa Harris-Lacewell
However, now that Obama's in office, it appears as if he's losing control of the story. Eric Alterman, Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College, and City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, also a guest on Bill Moyer's Journal, responded to Ms. Lacewell by saying, that it's President Obama's job to define the issues and fundamentals that will manifest in that change everyone hopes for.

To be fair, Obama presented himself as a pragmatic bipartisan centrist who gave us plenty of reason to question his liberal credentials. His idea was to set aside ideological commitments in order to deliver concrete results as fast as possible. Yet his "pragmatic" effort to stick to the center while compromising with conservatives isn't working, because the Republicans refuse to play fair and are unreasonable in terms of offering any cooperation whatsoever.
"But long before he won the election or even the Democratic nomination, progressives had enough reasons to question Obama's liberal credentials. Obama, for example, criticized a Supreme Court ruling that reaffirmed prior case law forbidding the death penalty in rape cases. He also praised a conservative Court ruling that found an individual right to bear arms and that invalidated a Washington, D.C., gun law. Obama also voted to renew the Patriot Act and, betraying a campaign promise, to extend immunity to telecoms that conducted unlawful surveillance on behalf of the Bush administration. Citing his own religious views, Obama stated that he did not agree with same-sex marriage. And while the antiwar left certainly preferred Obama to Hillary Clinton, Obama, like Clinton, said that he viewed the war in Afghanistan as a "just" war." -- Darren Hutchinson
Playing by the rules and reasonableness in the face of outright malfeasance and unreasonableness, no matter how strongly he believes in maintaining decorum, will not produce results. Prudent and restrained are no longer pragmatic. Obama must change strategy. He's must become David because he's up against Goliath, considering the insurance companies, the pharma industry, the banksters, etc.

Hopefully President Obama has a few tricks up his sleeve or knows a few things that we don't, because the Republicans are telling the story now, and that just means more of the same, or perhaps worse.

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