Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Present Mess

We stand five years into Obama's Administration of America's executive government and we the people have lost our minds, incapable of appraising the situation. On the left, while no one's staring doe-eyed into the starry gaze of the Chief Executive any longer, the chant of Change has yielded to dolorous defenses either of apathy, "What difference does it make?", or the tepid praise, "It would have been worse." On the right, while no one's challenging his legitimacy any longer, everyone's so disgusted that seldom does anyone bother about proper criticisms. All criticisms are taken as self-evident. Is there a veritable verdict?

The right swears to his incompetence and the left to obstruction. The right claims incompetence because it doesn't fundamentally disagree with Obama's policy of energetic government. Yes, it balks about the President's desire "to fundamentally change" America, but only because it resists change, not because it despises the status quo. President Obama didn't swoop in to replace an executive poised to overthrow the previous progressive orthodoxies of economic intervention, military intervention, income tax and progressive taxation, mandatory government schooling, deficit spending, and social welfare institutions. They're upset that he didn't brand this package in the guise of American Greatness and that Obama pandered to the populares–the disenfranchised and distempered–instead of rallying around the flag. By the time Obama had rebranded his rhetoric and tacked traditional, he was already caricatured as the Muslim Marxist. Today the republicans, then, can only momentarily interfere by their tepid utterances of "slightly less cowbell."

While the left not unreasonably blames republican obstructionism, it's not quite a proper claim. One obstructs what one opposes. Only an obtuse belief in democracy for its own sake, regardless of consequence, can lead you to chastise someone for refusing to sign onto pernicious plans. When there's no majority assent the left grows angry, not unreasonably when the dissent is rooted less in principle than spurious distrust, but disreputably when they demand cooperation from principled opponents under the presumed virtue of conformity.

On the one hand, the left cannot imagine Obama as incompetent, some because they lack the education they assume Obama acquired at some point in his hazy academic career–if you don't know anything I'm sure he looks bright, even vaguely profound–and others because they fill in his gaps of logic and planning, presuming such were left out lest the hoi polloi be blinded by the pure light of progress. On the other hand, they too believe in energetic government. All Obama had to do, they thought, was prune away special interests, modernize and streamline with technology, and explain himself and poof! Progress would ensue. Never mind that the government's monopoly on finance and law creates the special interests, that technology is in fact twitchy and complicated, requiring fine, uncommon, expensive minds, and finally that people don't like to be lectured.

It's perhaps that last point Obama and the left underestimated most. More than the Affordable Care Act's wobbly website and deference to insurance company interests, the fact that Obama spent what seemed like years hocking it to the people in his distinctly didactic tone exhausted us. Month after month we heard in the educating twang of his lecturing paeans and platitudes about efficiency and fair shares and investment and you know what? People are busy living, which is to say caring about their families and friends. We'd be able to do that if left alone. Obama underestimated just how much people can and want to think in Grand Designs.

Intellectuals like to wag their fingers at Americans because we're not consistently engaged in politics, because we disappear after elections. Surely there are such voters who expect their democratic sanction to usher in managed prosperity and progress, but perhaps we underestimate those who are prudently apolitical. Maybe the vice isn't apathy but the runaway designs from which people retreat simply to live in their little platoons.

What, then, is the end of those Grand Designs? Neither Utopia nor catastrophe but an irreducibly Byzantine network of ad hoc compromises with plans that would have fully failed if they had been fully implemented. So Obama and his agenda limp along, the praeclarus imperator shackled to Leviathan, the sum of all the faith and rage that brought him there.

No comments:

Post a Comment