Where Are Obama’s Aspirations?
I share in Kevin Drum’s Obama Schizophrenia, but I’ve had it for quite a long time.
This is in spite of my Kossack diaries on the subjects of aspirationalism in our politics and on the opportunity of his inauguration.
I’ve had mixed feelings about him pretty much since I saw a mediocre speech by him in Missouri in 2006 that had been televised on C-SPAN. During that event, Senator McCaskill was in a close race for her first term as a Senator (I don’t think it’ll be her last, either). She wanted to win badly, and her rousing speech showed it. Obama, whether because he was tired by his frentic schedule in that last week or because he was just going through the motions, was surprisingly flat as a speaker.
Throughout 2007, when he was running in the primaries, I had a sense that I’d vote for him over Hillary (whom I never really trusted) or Edwards (who I liked in 2004 but had lost faith in by 2007 – long before his career-ending affair). But most of the time, I just wasn’t worked up to support him. In fact, I don’t think I was publicly committed to him until his amazing speech on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. And nothing about the dragged out primaries or the hapless, reckless, careening campaign by McCain changed my mind.
When he needed to, he could deliver a powerful, inspirational speech. But far too often his remarks seems pedesterian, typical, and boring.
Since the inauguration? Not much is different. When he needs to deliver a sucker punch of a speech, he does. But most of the rest of the time, he doesn’t. He rarely stakes out a clear position on what he wants. And he – and Congress – spend too much time in public haggling over details rather than explaining and selling their agenda to the public.
The great aspirational hopes of Obama in 2008 have given way to the grinding transactional governing of 2010.
Should we be surprised? Should we blame him, Congress, the Republicans? Does it matter? Shouldn’t we be demanding something different?
Isn’t that what Obama wanted – to change Washington?
I just don’t know anymore.
Lucky for him, his under-valued policy achievements and the utter insanity of his opponents makes a 2012 an easy call for me to make. But it’s no longer a hopeful, aspirational vote – it’s the typical, rational, uninspired acceptance of the better over the consequences of the alternative.