Barack Obama: Embattled Moderate?
Who’d have thunk it? President Obama, for all his reformist zeal and lefty street cred, seems to be suffering from the Moderate’s Curse: he can’t please anybody.
He’s catching flak from the right, naturally. We expected that much. As he prepared to address the nation’s schoolchildren, exhorting them to study hard and propel themselves through the gnarly thicket of academia, conservative parents everywhere dissolved in quivering mounds of gelatinous white terror.
I’ve never seen such utter hysteria over a sitting president, unless you count the left’s hysteria over George W. Bush. But the left’s hysteria was mingled with sniggering contempt for an out-of-control, semi-literate frat boy who lucked his way into the White House. What we’re witnessing in response to Obama is pure, unadulterated, pants-wetting fear — aided, of course, by the alarmist diatribes of right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who benefit from generating precisely this sort of hysteria among the faithful. Their audience catches the message all too readily, and runs with it: “That radical African NEGRO… he’s going to corrupt our fair-haired babies and turn them into state-worshiping socialists!!! We’re losing our country to foreigners!! HELP!!!”
Even more moderate and liberal spokespeople are questioning Obama’s right to lecture our kids on the cultivation of scholarly habits. They claim that the government has no place in the classroom, and that our president has no business dispensing moral uplift over a TV screen.
I disagree. I suppose I’ll always be a child of the 1950s: I miss the noble and kindly public virtues that shaped my first decade on this perplexing planet. Why SHOULDN’T our president be a role model for young people? Teddy Roosevelt was hailed as a hero by the American youth of his day, and nobody castigated him for his superstar status.
I know we’ve had precious few inspiring presidents during my lifetime, but I can’t fault Obama for trying. God knows our young people could use a little inspiration. Would those hysterical parents rather have their offspring listening to the rapper du jour?
So much for the right and its discontents. What puzzles me is the surging animosity of the left toward their Chosen One.
On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be so puzzled. The left is a mindboggling patchwork of special interests: pro-choicers, blacks, Hispanics, gays, milquetoast liberals, hard-line socialists, Hollywood stars, environmentalists, preppie progressives and hardscrabble working stiffs. How can anyone — even someone as smart and personable as Obama — possibly satisfy them all? Whenever he veers toward the center, the left feels betrayed. Let him waffle on holy causes like nationalized healthcare or gay marriage, and he immediately hears about it. (“He’s our Negro… why isn’t he tap-dancing for us?”)
I feel Obama’s pain. The right lives in fear of his otherness; the left smacks him upside the head for not sticking to the official playbook. We embattled moderates need to give the president a hearty welcome to our ranks. He might not realize it, but he’s one of us now.