As we get ready to change administrations, the one thing that has always bothered me about President Obama’s two terms in office was a feeling of being deceived into voting for him in 2008; mostly based on my buy-in to his platform for change. On a recent Vice news special, President Obama spoke directly to my concerns, in answering candidly, the very question I would have asked of him if given the opportunity to do so myself.
Question: When you announced your candidacy in Springfield, you said; “Washington must change.” You talked about building consensus, ending petty politics, so,…. two terms later; where are we?
President Obama: “Well, that didn’t work out, did it? (in jest, a bit) You know, I could not be prouder of the work that my Administration has done. But, there is no doubt that one of the central goals that I had had, which was to make the politics in Washington work better, to reduce the knee jerk partisanship, to elevate the debate; I haven’t accomplished that. This is a humbling job, and so, sometimes I say to myself… well, if I had the vision and humor of Lincoln, or, the charm and persuasiveness of FDR, maybe, things would have turned out differently here in Washington. So, I’m happy to own that I wasn’t able to change attitudes among politicians as well as I would have liked. If people aren’t looking to cooperate; if they are not rewarded politically for cooperation, then, things can grind to a halt.”
What is clear to me is that what has been and continues to occur in Washington D.C. is a sort of the natural order of things, in this case decay, of a base sort of selfishness and zealous advocacy of special and/or self-interest that has eviscerated, and for the most part eradicated, the notion that service, sacrifice and honor as manifestations of true statesmanship are essential for good governance that must be reflected in the leadership of our nation.
In his response to the question, President Obama hit it squarely on the head. The systemic paralysis and dysfunction of Washington, that we all for the most part accept as normative, is not only the root of almost all problems in our government, but is also, shamefully, a refection of us as a society. The value system in Washington is but a mirror for our own base, selfish and “what’s in it for me” value system that permeates most of American society in general these days. We now live in an instant gratification society where the things that entertain us the most are things like zombies, and sex, and video games where stealing and killing and maiming others is how points are scored, and where, the bottom line is all that matters and so long as our consumerism driven avarice needs are met it matters not much that the means to get those selfish needs met are questionably ethical, or, downright fraudulent at times. That begs the question, why should Washington be any different?
In my opinion, our next president was chosen out of a desperate knee jerk reaction to doing anything different to what had been occurring in the past. Hillary Clinton represented the status quo of nasty American partisan politics probably more than any other human being on the planet, and almost half our country rejected her and the distribution of those voters fit the electorial college such that Donald Trump is our incoming president. What is clear to me now is that his presidency will very probably be the clearest reflection of our present day society as a whole. I think that is both sad and terribly scary.
President Barack Obama has left a very large pair of shoes to fill under the desk of the oval office. I dislike sounding like Chicken Little in portending doom, however, as I see it, Donald Trump’s feet are not anywhere near large enough to fill those shoes to do the job well. Unfortunately, maybe, just maybe, President Obama will be the last true statesman to ever be the figurative leader of our county. He tried, and for that I applaud his efforts and his legacy.