If logic and reason ever kick in with regards to our new president, there is going to be one nasty-big hangover (with much in-fighting) for those who supported him.
“Barack Obama opened his presidency by breaking sharply from George W. Bush’s unpopular administration, but he mostly avoided divisive partisan and ideological stands.”
This from the Guardian, the very same day:
“No inaugural address has so thoroughly rejected the political philosophy and legislative record of the previous administration.”
The statements are obviously in heavy tension with, if not in outright contradiction to one another. (Though now that I look at it more closely, the first one is also at odds with itself.)
How can this be? Let’s start with the assumption that the writers and readers of such stuff cannot be dismissed as having innately low IQs. Just the opposite.
If you are under the age of oh, say, 200, then you have probably been exposed to, if not completely steeped in some aspect of the philosophy of Karl Marx. One of the most pernicious if less well-known elements of that philosophy is the concept of dialectic, or compartmentalized truth. Marx is hardly the only proponent of this ancient idea, but he provides a convenient modern locus for thinking about it.
It is the idea that this can be true ‘for me’ and that other thing, completely opposite to it can be true ‘for you’. At the extreme, as we see in these two articles, two ‘truths’ in direct contradiction to one another can co-exist in the same sentence without causing anyone to ask with furrowed brow: how can this be?
Bolstered by Eastern, mystical thinking that relies on similar notions of paradox (though it comes at them from a slightly different angle), it has become fashionable, even commonplace to say of those of us who insist that such contradictions be confronted more logically, that we are somehow throw-backs. That we just don’t get it. That we are not sufficiently enlightened. That we are too rigid in our thinking. That this dialectical, compartmentalized, paradoxical, get-along, go-along, ‘whatever’ mindset is the way the world really works — the ultimate and most truthful way to think about things. (And trust me, I’ve been down that road quite a ways myself in my long, winding journey from far-left quasi-Taoist roots back in college.)
Problem is, that line of reasoning asserts a single, ultimate mode of truth. And in doing so, it confirms the inherent, logical, either-or fabric of the universe. (More prosaically, the law of non-contradiction. H/T to many many podcasts from the amazing Ravi Zacharias for all of this.)
Back to Obama. Either he is the bold leader of sharp and unapologetic change away from the policies and ideas of a president the left loved to rail at for being hyper-partisan… or he is the ultimate healer of partisan wounds. To say that he is both makes no sense.
For if he is the ultimate non-partisan healer and bringer-together of a nation divided along ideological lines, then he must, by definition be a compromiser, a listener, an accommodater with his philosophical rivals. And if he is the bold leader of rapid, radical change from the hated Bush regime, then he is necessarily not any of those things. His acolytes cannot have it both ways.
Yes but, you may say, great leaders are masters of paradox. Yes, this is true. And that would be nice.
Yet what we’ve seen of B.O. in his first week in office suggests, rather strongly, that he is taking the short-cut — snubbing his rivals and taking triumphant hyper-ideological stands (e.g., furthering the culture of death) to the cheers of his left-wing supporters. A cipher to many just one week ago, he seems to be trying to have it both ways, still positioning such a scorched-earth approach as somehow uniting. Sadly, he will find ample support among opiated masses conditioned to regard dialectical ‘whatever’ thinking as perfectly normal.
There are a couple of routes out of this dilemma. One is to veer back to center and try a more Clintonesque approach (Bill, that is) of cynical political triangulation. I don’t think that’s going to happen.
The other approach he could take is to marginalize and clamp down ever more tightly on those who oppose him. We see the faint, high cirrus clouds of this storm of arrogance in his comments about Rush last week. Where it could end up (and I’m not getting my knickers in a knot about it yet) is in a return of the Fairness Doctrine and/or any number of other measures that make it costly, difficult and/or inconvenient for his opponents to do their (our) thing, i.e., connect, organize and reach an audience.
With the backdrop of a war which could easily widen any day now, plus economic measures that will only get more draconian over time, it’s not hard to see how such moves could be justified in the interest of the nation. Will he go there? Who knows. We will watch, wait and pray.