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Posted by on Jan 28, 2008 in Politics | 20 comments

From Here to Uncertainty


It is at once painful and exhausting to live with the conflicts inside my brain. One year, I’m a Republican, then an Independent, then an almost-Democrat, and back again to Republican. One minute, I embrace hard-line conservative platitudes about shrinking the size of government; the next, I’m ready to embrace universal healthcare, regardless of the cost.

Thus my political revolving-door spins. I’m no more reliable or constant in my theories and beliefs than a child. One would think that, after 43 years on this planet, I would have settled into some sphere of consistency. And yet, the longer I live and the more I learn, the less clear I am on what I think I understand.

No wonder the Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, progressives, libertarians and all other varieties of political classes reject me. If I were one of them, I’d reject me, too.

Funny thing is, among the electorate’s chattering masses, a convulted belief system might just be the rule rather than the exception. Consider: During the 24-year span of my personal election history, our country has moved from a day when so-called “Reagan Democrats” marched en masse across party lines to prove that their political enemy was, at that point in time, the best hope for the nation’s healing — to a day when so-called “Obama Republicans” could choreograph their own rendition of the same dance.

Naturally, this dance drives certain people crazy.

In a post published yesterday, Rick Moran argues that:

… despite his obvious gifts, Obama has not fleshed out many of his basic, fundamental principles and how they would play a role in his presidency. Just what exactly does he stand for besides the vague platitudes about “hope” and “change” that pepper his speeches like little dollops of whipped cream? Where is the rock to which he tethers his beliefs?

I don’t think this is a question of intellectual laziness but rather it is a matter of not having spent enough time confronting, questioning, strengthening, and ultimately adopting in his own mind the bedrock foundation of a political philosophy …

For this reason, at the present time, Obama would make a terrible president – beyond the fact that I believe his policies to be wrongheaded and even dangerous. And given the perilousness of the times, it is very possible that an Obama Administration – like the Bush Administration – would find itself eventually crashing on the shoals of history; battered and bruised by the inconstancy and contradictions that would afflict a basically rudderless chief executive.

Beyond his unsubstantiated comparison of Obama to Bush, beyond his glancing dismissal of Obama’s very specific policy proposals, the primary exception I take with Moran’s argument is his suggestion that a “bedrock foundation of a political philosophy” is a pre-requisite for a good President. Philosophies are philosophies. Real life is real life. And the real life of 2008 is a remarkably complex time, unlike any other in my experience; a time when, yes, history should be a guide on which we rely, but not a guide to which we are addicted or obliged.

In other words, Obama’s transcendence of traditional politics, his untethered approach to the issues, his perceived lack (or is it a rejection?) of bedrock philosophies — those things that make Moran uncomfortable are the same things that I and others find remarkably appealing, the very things that could make Obama the one candidate ideally suited to help us sail through these inconstant, contradictory times.

We’ve already endured eight years of a president who is so stubbornly anchored to a philosophy that he can’t accept challenges to it, who can’t assimilate and adapt to the nuances of a confusing and conflicted age. Maybe it’s high time we consider a president of the precise opposite mentality.