Or… Polarizing President Who Just Wanted To Be Political Conciliator

Editor-in-chief of the New Yorker, David Remnick’s recently published Obama biography, “The Bridge,” describes the first African-American president as a bridge-builder between the political camps in America.

Yet, after two years in office, seems Obama is one of the most polarizing presidents of all time. How could that happen?

According to Remnick’s interview with Der Spiegel of Germany, this drama of a young African American becoming president was enormously important and did bring the country together… but that drama is over.

“Now it’s the drama of difficulty in the prose of governing which doesn’t have happy endings. Look, this is a president that came into office with shall we count the crises? It would take up hours. And so… has his rhetoric been heavily geared exclusively toward reconciliation and bringing the nation together? No, it hasn’t.”

In fact, it can’t.

Many Americans didn’t want just a crisis manager, though. They saw in Barack Obama the leader of a movement to change the very course of the country — a sort of political messiah. Part of Obama’s political genius was being an elected politician and echoing a prophetic voice — much like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi.

He held the hope of Peoples’ dreams.

Such an accomplishment is not something a politician can usually do. “Part of it had to do with a kind of attachment to a racial drama, a historical drama in the United States. But that’s the campaign. Governing is harder,” maintains Remnick.

America is now extremely fractious and dominated by the loudest voices on cable television and the Internet and the baser instincts of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and other architects of division.

And Obama somehow thinks he can overcome it because he is such a conciliatory character… He’s wrong. That is his problem. He can’t. Even a president cannot in a moment’s time utterly transform the political and media culture that he’s given.”

When Obama was elected, US intellectuals were elated to welcome a reflective man into the White House after W Bush’s eight years of detached disinterest in anything thoughtfully challenging. Now the Tea Bagger movement is succeeding through openly anti-intellectual hostility again.

Says Remnick:

It’s certainly a relief to a lot of people that Obama shows no signs of the incuriosity displayed by his predecessor.

Obama has proven his literary and intellectual firepower, it’s true, but this can’t be the center of focus, not even for literary intellectuals. It matters a great deal more that his decisions in a situation like Afghanistan lead to success — or a minimum of catastrophe — than it does that he is reading a novel by Jonathan Franzen.

The aggressive anti-intellectualism of the Tea [Bagger] movement is another matter.

People like [weak-willed, personally insecure drug-and-alcohol-addicted] Glenn Beck are not political analysts, they are circus barkers, fantasists trafficking in bogus history and ugly conspiracy theories.

And, unfortunately, he has real influence on millions of people. Another unintended consequence of technology.


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