Obama gives me hope and he gives me fright.
Over the past few years, I have endured the common process of maturing from a naive, excessively optimistic youth into a more realistic, but still confidently optimistic young adult. Obama must now endure the same metamorphosis. He must convert his naive, excessively optimistic rhetoric into real, politically muddy pragmatism and results. An unfortunate reality of human nature is that politicians cannot obtain results without muddy pragmatism.
I find it difficult to recall a time in Obama’s career when he has used muddy pragmatism to push the world toward his idealized vision of it. This does not mean that he lacks the ability to do so, but knowing that he has little or no experience doing so disturbs and disquiets me. His optimism for a post-partisan world will be counteracted by the reality of his personal views being far to the left of what most Americans, even most Democrats, want their policies to look like. If he does not adopt a Bill Clintonesque moderate liberal approach, his bedtime fantasies of being the savior who leads us into a beautiful post-partisan world will transform into nightmares of Congressional gridlock. He made many promises to many constituencies, now he needs the courage and the maturity to tell some of those groups, “No, I Can’t. Sorry, but I cannot do it all. I must govern and prioritize as a pragmatist.”
In Federalist Paper No. 1, Alexander Hamilton wrote:
[A] dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.
Demagogues are people who obtain “power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.” By this strict definition, not all demagogues are bad or evil. But, if they are not evil, it is because they have the humility and the wisdom not to abuse the frenzied emotions of the people. Obama may use the deep stocks of political capital he has with his voters to enact changes that only comport with his somewhat far left views. Just as Bush has a deep and unwavering faith in his far right views, Obama may have an analogous faith in his far left views. We simply do not know much about him. Is it wise to gamble with the presidency? We need to remain sober until his actions prove that his abilities match our hope for him.
The real story here has little to do with Obama. Obama, as a crafty politician, identified the real story and preyed upon it. The real story is that the social views of this country are quickly evolving and my generation leads the charge. We are the story, not him. He stands as an emblem and a by-product of that evolution, but he is not our leader. He cannot be our leader because while he represents my generation’s social views, he does not represent my generation’s economic views. We have learned, or so I hope, from the mistakes of European economics. Even the Chinese, who claim to be Communist, have adopted American capitalism.
Right now, my generation votes for champions of social progress because those issues are easier to grasp and to understand. Once we mature our economic understanding of the world and begin paying taxes, our fiscally conservative attitudes will blossom into a weight more comparable to our socially progressive attitudes when we decide who to vote for. My proof for this is sparse and based on intuition. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, Democrats represent my generation. The Republicans will be forced to evolve with us, if they wish to survive, and they do wish to survive.
Fiscal Conservatism + Social Progressiveness = My Generation.