Wednesday, September 26, 2012


So now, after a modest amount of decorous throat-clearing that "nothing is decided yet" -- data to the contrary -- and with predictable (and accurate) grumbling about what a truly terrible candidate Romney has proven to be (except, of course, compared to every single one of the alternatives)... and with the occasional detour into truly sophistic fantasy ("But in Bizarro America, where they don't hold 'elections,' his chances wouldn't be so damn good!")... the commentariat will start wrapping its head around the reality of a second Obama term.. 

The first shot out of the box is from Andrew Sullivan, in full fanboy ecstasy with a piece whose headline and thesis -- "President Obama: The Democrats' Ronald Reagan" -- are what an irony therapist might call overdetermined. Sullivan, the poet laureate of 11-dimensional chess (aka "Obama's long game") is an imaginarium architect of the first water, rearranging the universe around the infallibility of his love object (indeed, constructing a heavenly sphere in which the Father and Son are not just enthroned, but wed).

Inspired by that, let me offer a brief version -- to be elaborated at a later date, if events justify it and I have the energy -- of my own fantasized near future. It involves a president who perhaps has -- thanks in significant part to his opponents on the right (we on the left had little or no effect) -- been turned into an actual Democrat, an actual thinker and an actual leader. 

If the past year has accomplished anything, it has clarified the reality of the political arena. I guess our elections, despite their vacuous and depressing theatricality, do that. Obama has been driven, against his natural instincts, to an actual ideological place -- and it has proven to be much more politically successful. Rhetorically, at least, he has moved left -- or, more precisely, has gelled into something comprehensible. George Lakoff must be gratified that he is, at long last, shaping the dialogue in ways that reflect a comprehensible progressive view. This view is proving effective -- he's winning, and thankfully, he's winning for approximately the right reasons. The country really is rejecting the three Rs -- Romney's plutocratic noblesse oblige, Ryan's Ayn Randian social darwinism, and the Republicans' Grover Norquistian economic mono-thesis-ism: Whatever the question, the answer is, "Cut taxes!" There can be no doubt that the majority view post-election 2012 -- the center of gravity, the Tea Party nothwithstanding -- will be that government has a vital role in society.

If a second Obama term were grounded in nothing more than that, it would be cheering. But I am allowing myself to fantasize that the wet clay of our Precious President might be being shaped into something even better than a Democrat. I am hoping he can become an actual thinker and leader -- which is to say, a systems thinker-and-leader (or, at least, a vessel capable of absorbing and enacting systems thought). Instead of an actor delivering empty paeans to bipartisanship and compromise -- instead of being guided by the narcissistic imperative of looking like the most reasonable person in the room -- perhaps he has been dragged, kicking and pausing, into the role of leader with an actual world view. Maybe he is arriving at a hard-won comprehension of the emerging planetary paradigm and of how America's political dynamics fit into that. Maybe we'll stop obsessing about debt-reduction through "grand bargains," and start lowering actual spending (on our way toward single payer), through, say, a lower Medicare eligibility age. Maybe we'll pump aid back to the states, so that all those laid-off teachers, police and fire fighters can resume pumping money back into the economy. Maybe we'll save Wall St. (and the rest of the economy) from itself, by imposing meaningful regulations that turn banking into a boring utility, and shift innovation to where it belongs in this coming era -- away from financial capital and toward production capital.

Okay, I said this was an exercise in fantasy. But I do, er, hope that he has, er, changed.

No comments: