What Barack Obama Needs to Hear
What Barack Obama Needs to Hear
Barack Obama likes to say, “One of the themes of this campaign is to tell voters what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.” But what Obama needs to hear is that his presidential campaign is destined to fail unless he begins to address the conditions and policies that are truly ailing America, and making the USA such a pariah state in the world.
Obama’s core philosophy is enfolded in the false hope of his declaration: “I am absolutely confident we can restore America’s leadership in the world.” You can only restore what has not been irretrievably lost. Even if some people around the world still hope that America can fill the vacuum of leadership on environmental issues, human rights, and poverty, humankind has entered a new era. The old nation-state framework simply does not apply in our de facto global society.
Besides, Americans no longer care about “American leadership in the world”--they care about American leadership at home. Most have purely parochial concerns; some see the utter mess the country is in and are looking for policies that work. The original body politic is deceased however, and denial prevents a new one from being born.
Overall, the fear of communism has morphed into the fear of terrorism, with harmful effects on civil liberties, and far more stultifying effects on the public conscience. Many people believe that all we have to do is wait for Bush/Cheney to fade into the woodwork. They are indulging in the most dangerous form of wishful thinking.
Tactics reflect strategy, and strategy reflects philosophy. Obama either does not see, or feels he cannot address, what has happened to the celebrated American spirit. A benumbed people do not want a professorial president, they want a passionate one. That’s why Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic convention drew such enthusiastic response, and launched his presidential bid. Instead of building on his populist message however, he did the worst thing a politician can do in America: he went intellectual.
When even outrage is manufactured for political gamesmanship, and the people remain numb and dumb to wars begun and atrocities committed in their name, fascism is only the next attack on the ‘homeland’ away. It is precisely these conditions that Obama must confront, first within his own circle, and then with the nation, if he hopes to win the nomination, and turn the tide.
The Bush Doctrine, and the “global war on terror,” are unraveling, taking the international order with them. But despots do desperate things when cornered. A supine American public is being prepared for the bombing of Iranian nuclear installations, for which Israel’s bombing of an alleged nuclear facility in Syria was a dress rehearsal. Meanwhile, Turkey stands at the Iraqi border, ready to invade, at once blaming, citing US precedent, and demanding help from America.
Just as Bush looked into Putin’s soul and saw an autocratic soul-mate (who has since turned into an enemy), so too he now looks the other way while Musharrraf mimics the Burmese junta and makes a mockery of democracy in Pakistan. Invoking the tone of empire, and the action of an emperor without clothes, Bush declares, "We expect there to be elections as soon as possible," calling on Musharrraf to "remove his uniform."
Barack Obama cannot awaken America—only Americans themselves can do that—but he will listen if the people awaken, and in listening, lead. What other presidential candidate has the capacity to listen and give voice to a genuine transformation in America? HillBill, with their ‘back to the future’ co-presidency? Mitt Romney, a Mormon marionette with his finger continually to the wind? Or Mr. 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, running a campaign on milking fear for all he can?
John Edwards, the next best presidential candidate, still echoes the past. He’s making spot-on attacks on both HillBill and Bush, driving home points like “if you give this president an inch [referring to Hillary’s Senate vote to ratchet up pressure on Iran], he’ll take a mile.” Unfair as it is however, Edwards is tainted with John Kerry in the same way Hillary is bolstered by Bill.
Never think things are so bad that they cannot get worse. Barack Obama cannot lead by half measures, only by speaking the truth to the people, passionately.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.