Barack Obama: An Agnostic as President

Someone in office who doubts simple answers. What a relief! I thought this was an interesting quote from a Politico analysis article, and a fair summing up of Barack Obama’s first year as president:

“Obama is not a populist. He can’t bring himself to fake it,” answers Thomas Mann, a Brookings political scientist. “He is a very well informed and open-minded policy wonk who will continue to disappoint those who have it all figured out. Given the complexity of the problems we face, I think that is a good thing.”

I agree. I voted for an intellectual and sane moderate and—all the hysteria and caricature from the Fox News right aside—that’s exactly what the country got. I wish Obama well in the New Year, and in his efforts to hold extremists of both the left and the right—but especially the right, for it is far more powerful—at bay. One year after Obama’s election, he still gives me hope that we can continue to build a liberal bourgeois and capitalist democracy that doesn’t torture and that treats its citizens like adults (with dignity and respect). And make no mistake: Obama stands between us and a descent into a reactionary authoritarian fundamentalism that would be worse than the Bush era. The far right has dug in its heels and gained enormous strength, and is the only alternative Republicans have on offer. I fear for my country if Obama should fail, but I don’t think that he is going to. In an age of heated and simplistic religious and political certitude, we’ve somehow managed to elect an agnostic who complexifies. Let’s keep backing him. Below is the first stanza of William Butler Yeats’s 1921 poem, “The Second Coming”. It’s a reminder of what we’re up against, and the danger of reactionary and fanatical political movements asserting themselves and overcoming moderate politicians (yes, I’m thinking of the Teabaggers): 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

And here’s a reminder, if you’re a moderate or liberal, of what we’re working toward:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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