Sunday, November 09, 2008

Patience and Humility

are not qualities highly prized in the blogosphere; nore are they in great abundance there. Nevertheless, they are occasionally useful.

Some progressives are preparing to pass judgment on the Obama Administration before it ever takes office, based on the appointments he makes in the interim. Disappointment is the natural state of progressives; happily, they habitually set their standards high enough to ensure they will always reside in their comfort zone. It is our habit as bloggers to respond to things as they happen, which means we overstate the importance of trivial events. Progressive bloggers, then...well, Obama will be lucky to hold onto more than a handful of us past the end of November.

Still, I will counsel patience. This could be a disaster, or a tremendous success, or a disaster for some and a success for others, but we won't know until well into the second year at the earliest. With Bush, it was different: anyone who was paying attention knew exactly what he would do, and how he would do it, and that's what he did. There was no reason to give him any benefit of any doubt. Obama, I think, has earned a fair amount of forebearance--as the first African-American president, as the first victorious Democrat since 1996, as someone who ran a generally honorable and inclusive campaign, as one who ran on an agenda of improving people's lives, as the most skillful politician since Clinton (whom, if things go well, he could well eclipse), as someone in whose success we have a vested interest. In other words, how about we wait and see?

The other point is that Obama's path to victory was his own. The narrative he shaped was never popular with progressive bloggers--who wanted more confontation, more partisanship, a blanket condemnation of the rotting maggot-ridden corpse of Republican ideology. (Rachel Maddow's interview with Obama exemplifies this nicely.) We all had advice for Obama at one point or another, and most of the time it was not what he did, and amazingly enough he won anyway. And what the win and everything leading up to it tell us is that, despite what some people say, Obama really does know the difference between strategy and tactics. He's playing a long game here. Maybe longer than the game any of us is contemplating. Which I think is a possibility we need to keep in mind when we find something to criticize. It is entirely possible that, in fact, everybody should chill the fuck out because he's got this.

I'm not endorsing a Republican-style Daddy Knows Best approach. I don't think that ever works (although it is particularly ill-suited to a president whose incompetence makes Homer Simpson look like Ward Cleaver). What I am suggesting is that, in the end, we're just people with opinions. Which is a point I think we would do well to keep in mind when we react to a president for whom we have high hopes and great expectations. We could always be wrong.

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