Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Empty Suit Presidency

Shelby Steele's parable for Obama's America: The Emperor's New Clothes.
America's primary race problem today is our new "sophistication" around racial matters. Political correctness is a compendium of sophistications in which we join ourselves to obvious falsehoods ("diversity") and refuse to see obvious realities (the irrelevance of diversity to minority development). I would argue further that Barack Obama's election to the presidency of the United States was essentially an American sophistication, a national exercise in seeing what was not there and a refusal to see what was there—all to escape the stigma not of stupidity but of racism.

Barack Obama, elegant and professorially articulate, was an invitation to sophistication that America simply could not bring itself to turn down. If "hope and change" was an empty political slogan, it was also beautiful clothing that people could passionately describe without ever having seen.
Good stuff.

And so is his comparing Obama to Reagan:
The nature of this emptiness becomes clear in the contrast between him and Ronald Reagan. Reagan reached the White House through a great deal of what is called "individuating"—that is he took principled positions throughout his long career that jeopardized his popularity, and in so doing he came to know who he was as a man and what he truly believed.

He became Ronald Reagan through dissent, not conformity. And when he was finally elected president, it was because America at last wanted the vision that he had evolved over a lifetime of challenging conventional wisdom. By the time Reagan became president, he had fought his way to a remarkable certainty about who he was, what he believed, and where he wanted to lead the nation.

Mr. Obama's ascendancy to the presidency could not have been more different. There seems to have been very little individuation, no real argument with conventional wisdom, and no willingness to jeopardize popularity for principle. To the contrary, he has come forward in American politics by emptying himself of strong convictions, by rejecting principled stands as "ideological," and by promising to deliver us from the "tired" culture-war debates of the past. He aspires to be "post-ideological," "post-racial" and "post-partisan," which is to say that he defines himself by a series of "nots"—thus implying that being nothing is better than being something. He tries to make a politics out of emptiness itself.
As usual, Steele insightfulness provokes and enlightens. But many of Obama's most "sophisticated" fans will continue to oooh and ahhh over their hero's "new clothes."

1 Comments:

Blogger jake said...

For our good friend Bob, this lesson about leadership and principles clearly articulates why President Reagan was the best Republican president of our time.
Eisenhower was a respected, fatherly caretaker of the Oval Office, bringing stability at a time when it was needed; not unlike Gerry Ford's tenure; but certainly neither of those solid citizens offered the vision and eloquence of President Reagan's statesmanship.

December 31, 2009 at 6:52 PM 

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