Friday, January 29, 2010

Obama and the right wing

Barack Obama began his Presidency with the wish to transcend divisive partisanship, to establish dialogues that would bring people together. Instead, his efforts to build consensus seem to have yielded only increased acrimony.
From one point of view, one might say that Obama's openness is read as weakness by those who operate with a dominant-submissive, zero-sum world view. Cheney and others in the Bush administration believed that Al Qaeda and the Taliban, for example, only understand the language of violence, and of course that belief was fully reciprocated by Al Qaeda and the Taliban. In that respect, the two sides spoke each others' language.
Obama speaks the language of dialogue and mutual respect, so we have a confusion of tongues. What happens next is unpredictable and will require creativity to find a way past the impasse. If Obama plays hard ball like the right wingers, he will have become them and nothing will have changed as he meant it to. If he continues as he has been, his stance will continue to be read as weakness, and thus provocative of further bullying. Can Obama find a way to resist the invitation to join those who believe the only kind of power comes from the barrel of a gun, while finding a new way to be powerful? Stay tuned.

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