I had barely posted the first Comment of the Day on the recent post regarding the explosive poll showing President Obama sinking below all previous post-war Chief Executives in the public’s estimation, when another excellent deserving one, by Mark, arrived.
Mark doesn’t comment often, but when he does, his posts are always eloquent and thoughtful. Here is his Comment of the Day on the essay, Nobody Should Be Cheering The Poll Showing President Obama As Regarded As “The Worst President Since World War II”.
I don’t go all the way with you on this one, Jack, but certainly a part of the way. A few years ago I learned about projections – how we project what we want/see/expect onto other people even when, or especially when, the projection has nothing to do with who they really are, and the consequence of not seeing clearly the person in front of us. If nothing else, President Obama has been a victim of that idea.
In 2008, he was a blank screen onto which people projected what they wanted to see after the Bush years and a rapidly tanking economy. He was HOPE, CHANGE, and perhaps worse, we ennobled him with the idea that he was something other than a standard-issue Washington politician. The fact that he was African American only amplified the idea of his actually making a difference in Washington because he was, indeed, so different from any other candidate we had seen since Kennedy and his Roman Catholicism. I think our ultimate projection might have been that if we could do this, elect a black man, then we would bring change to the country simply by “curing” the centuries-old race issues in the US or making a good run at it. Projections are powerful and in the hands of a collective even more so. After a time during the 2008 election, it didn’t matter what he said or did, he WAS hope and change, not a candidate.
And, in the absolute cynicism of American politics, all the pollsters, pundits, and creatures of his campaign knew and exploited this (and they’ll do it again for someone else come 2016).
In the moment he was elected, as an African American, I felt something incredible – a man like me in the White House, a supreme victory after slavery, Jim Crow, and the spilled blood of Till and King. I also felt an unease – could he govern? We knew he could run a crackerjack campaign, but could he replicate that kind of success from the Oval Office? In 2008, I figured only time would tell and to an extent it has. He was neither an outsider to Washington nor a maverick, both projections, not to mention a relative lack of experience compared to other presidents. I will say – and I know you agree – that he did not come to Washington to cause harm, but with a deep love for the country and an expectation that he could do what he had intended and promised. Perhaps those were his own projections upon a system that had no intention of bearing them out. I don’t know.
Like I said – I won’t go all the way with you on this and the points of disagreement are about perception of events and we each have our own. I will not say, either, that he is the worse president since WWII – that is, again, a matter of perception. Where we absolutely agree is a share of this lies with the American people who have not figured out how to counter systems – both political and governmental – that are increasingly cynical, unethical, and devoid of any sense of the common good for our nation. “Have you no sense of decency, Sir?” is truer today than it was in 1954 and should be asked of every politician in Washington from the President on down. In the last eight years everybody of every political stripe has some blood on their hands for this mess. We lay it at his feet because – unfortunately for him – the buck does stop there.
So now we wait for the curtains to part on another blank screen onto which we’ll project our hope for a country that is different from the one we’re living in now. We’ll hear from sincere, well meaning candidates who will tell us what we want to hear rather than what is true and doable, and we’ll buy it. The first woman in the White House is ripe for that, as is the first Hispanic, or a TRUE American Tea Party candidate. They’ll all present themselves and we’ll beam on.