Too often when surfing the internet and visiting various blogs and other meeting sites, I read comments from ALL sides of the political divide, that disparage President Obama’s leadership and or the leadership of other politicians and or powerful people.
These comments put forth by many has bothered me for quite some time, and NOT just when referring to President Obama, but others as well. Most often when questioned to provide specific examples of what constitutes ‘leadership’ I rarely get a reply.IF, on the rare occasion someone did provide an answer to my inquiry, the answers were more often than not, very vague or ended up being exceptionally critical of one individual or another. The few responses I received, didn’t provide REAL assessments of leaderships or didn’t provide specific examples of HOW leadership was not being shown. As such, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people don’t KNOW what leadership entails or what actions, behaviors or innate qualities actually SHOW leadership or the different types of leadership techniques a particular individual may employ.
So back to the question…WHAT is leadership? This question actually evokes more questions. IS leadership definable or quantified? Are there more than one definition of leadership? What attributes constitute leadership? Is the concept subjective? ARE leaders made or born, or a combination of both? What examples of effective leadership from history can be used to help us define the concept?
Leadership has been loosely defined by some, as the ability for an individual to influence or gain the support of others for a common gain. Other definitions have included, ability of one to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals. Another definition I’ve encountered is the ‘ability for an individual to inspire and influence others to the attainment of a dream.”
Merriam Webster is no help in defining the concept, as they simply define the word leadership as meaning, the ability or capacity to lead. Further inquiry into what the word lead means, turns up the result; to guide on a way by going in advance; or to direct the operations, activity or performance; or to be first. There were a few other definitions that Merriam Webster provide for the concept of lead, but they all pretty much provided the same basic concepts, without providing much detail as to what the concepts actually mean.
Various sources provide various meanings attached to the word and the concept, some with more detail than others. SO, I would suggest the actual concept of leadership IS difficult to define and CAN be subjective based on many variables.
Leadership IS a difficult concept to define and is can have many differing aspects. ONE can be an effective leader in SOME areas and not effective in others. Throughout history, various leaders have employed various tactics to make decisions. Some very effective leaders have been authoritarian and others have sought the opinions of advisers or trusted others who they admired, who may have had more knowledge than they or better instincts than they and made decisions accordingly. While others have employed ‘gut instinct’ to lead their decision making process and others have relied on strategy based on analysis to guide their decisions. Others have employed a combination of tactics at various times. Some were just lucky that externalities played into their hands or worked in their favor.
Thus it seems there are various factors in play that influence an individuals ability to be a leader and their ability bring people together for a common goal. Innate natural abilities (charisma or to borrow a French phrase “je ne sais quo”, can be a factor). Knowledge of a particular discipline or concept, attained from formal education or life learning, can be another. Simply being in the ‘right place at the right time’ can be another. There have been many examples of people, under extreme duress or in extraordinary circumstances, who have found within themselves the ability to lead others out of harms way or help make something happen to benefit others, who have never exhibited leadership abilities before or since, but were able in THAT particular event, to muster the ability to lead. There are examples in history and common lore, of people who were ‘born leaders’ and other examples point to education or nurturing as the reason for their leadership acumen.
Leadership, in my opinion, seems to be one of the social concepts that defies adequate definition. As such, it falls under the category of “I know it when I see it”. However, that concept is highly subjective. Other ideas that fall in that category, include pornography or racism. Some people see those ideas in everything and others are more liberal in their personal perspectives of those same concepts, and are more or less willing to define a particular event of meeting their personal definition of those ideals.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader. Mohandas Ghandi was a leader. John F. Kennedy was a leader. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a leader. Gloria Steinem is a leader. Lois Gibbs is a leader. I would even go so far to say, Paul Krugman is a leader, as is Joseph Stiglitz and James Galbrath, or Micheal Moore among many others. These individuals are often praised by those on the left for their leadership qualities and their methods or ideas. HOWEVER, they ALL employed or employ different leadership concepts and did not ALL follow the same ideology or methodology for achieving their goals.
Other famous and EFFECTIVE political leaders, who have come from other political ideologies, include Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Vladmir Lenin, Ronald Reagan, as well as the Dalia Lama, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Malcolm X, Pope John Pope the II, and Teddy Roosevelt. Again to name but a few, we could even add Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann, to this list as they TOO technically qualify as leaders, even George W. Bush qualifies as a leader.
Business leaders, too, come from a variety of backgrounds and ideologies AND employ different methods to LEAD their flocks. From modern business leaders such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and Donald Trump to the robber barons and other business leaders o(both legal and illegal) of the early 20th century, such as John Jacob Astor, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and even Al Capone. Leaders come in many shapes, sizes and ideals.
WE can even add the different types of monarchs to the list, such as Middle eastern Emirs and Russian Tsars, and other kings and queens, and Emperors, Pharaohs throughout the ages who have employed different EFFECTIVE leadership styles as well as ineffective styles.
Regardless of the methods or STYLE of ANY leader throughout history or today, the one thing that is fallacious and VERY disingenuous to suggest is that these people WEREN’T leaders. Like him, love him or have indifference to him….BARRACK OBAMA is a leader. Whether you like his leadership STYLE or disagree with his methods or conclusions….arguing that he IS NOT a leader or doesn’t possess leadership abilities or isn’t effective is simply not true and not an honest assessment of what he has accomplished or is attempting to accomplish. His style may not be the same authoritarian, cowboyish, ‘my way or the highway’ type of leader that was employed by his predecessor OR as aggressive and and experimental as FDR was, (as much as I admire FDR, I acknowledge he as just HUMAN and had his own negative attributes).
Obama has HIS own style and methods for dealing with issues. Does he and his staff always have the ‘right answers’ or does he always make decisions that people of ALL AMERICAN’S like? No. Does he make decisions that his ‘base’ don’t like? YES. Is that a part of leadership? MOST definitely.
As leadership is such a subjective concept and provides many definitions and ideas to quantify what the term entails, I think we need to have a discussion as to what WE on the progressive side of the political spectrum want from those we appoint as leaders of our cause or ideals.
Do we want an authoritarian leader who simply extols the ‘my way or the highway’ method of leadership OR do we wish to wish to follow those who are willing to listen to various perspectives and ideas when making decisions? DO we, as a whole, want a leader that is pragmatic and who thinks of what is possible to attain? OR do we want a leader who tries to attain the impossible, to make us feel good? Do we want a leader who is willing to make unpopular decisions or do we want a ‘yes’ man?
WHAT kind of leader does the Left want? What kind of leader does the MAJORITY of the American people want? Are the two the same? What kind of leader does America need?
These are the questions I think we all need to ask ourselves, before we simply deride any type of leader or leadership style.
It’s nice seeing you over here.
Great, thought provoking post Abby.
“Like him, love him or have indifference to him….BARRACK OBAMA is a leader. Whether you like his leadership STYLE or disagree with his methods or conclusions….arguing that he IS NOT a leader or doesn’t possess leadership abilities or isn’t effective is simply not true and not an honest assessment of what he has accomplished or is attempting to accomplish.”
Well said and I absolutely agree.
Obama does have his own style; and, it starts with ‘play with the cards you have been dealt’. Look at what he has inherited; inlude in that list the woeful state of the two parties. The Democrats are a disorganized and fractious coalition of politicians ( a politician’s first characteristic is ‘does not work well with others) who don’t like each other very much.
The GOP is being run, in fact by the RW and politicans from the deep South. The same faction ( who are now GOP) that FDR had to placate to get anything done.
It is a wonder anything got done at all considring the woeful state of Congress.
And, hardly anyone actually elects them, as 40 to 60% of the eligible voters do not vote.
What kind of leader does America want? Most neither know nor care. Most will tolerate just about anything.
What kind of leader does America need? It does not need one. Americans need to wake up; to pay attention; to learn about government; to learn about politics, current events and history. That would be a good start.
Just to simplify: I want the leader Candidate Obama said he was; Not the “leader” he has become.
I want less BS, more frankness and honesty. We can handle the truth.
For me, this Pres has moved too far center right; or was dishonest during the campaign about where he really stood.
The continual compromising is not right. Sometimes compromise is simply Not acceptable, especially the terrible tax cuts he signed off on while at the same time Raising taxes on the lowest wage earners.
This is simply not right. I wish he would have listened to the people who objected, not to mention the Public Option…….
Respectfully, I have to disagree. I can promise my granddaughter a trip to Disneyland, however, If I lose my business, it has to wait. In her mere 12 years, she would not like the grandmother I had “become”, when she gets a little older, she understands.
Our president has managed to pass the most liberal policies since FDR, with a hostile congress, frightened blue dogs, and impatient “progressives” The problem with progressives is their definition of “liberal”. We true liberals define progress as a step in the right director, not necessarily winning the race. Sadly, by some of the so called “progressives” standards of progress, Lincoln would have been scorned, because the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in hostile territory, but didn’t include full voting rights.
I no longer call myself progressive, but a proud liberal. We liberals have a history of dying for what we believe, and not wait around for one guy to give it to us. I take back the name with pride, as other have paid their blood, to leave me the name.
Well said, biz and I agree. Progress is Progressive.
Thanks Abbyrose for a great and thought provoking article.
Our system is suffering from basic fundamental failures. Voices asking basic questions, discussing fundamental issues and concepts are needed today more than ever.
If you’d like I would be glad to seed your article to MSNBC Newsvine.
Thanks Smedley! I was hoping to start a dialogue on leadership and what it means to different people, when I posted this.
I think that we, especially those on the left, need to define what WE want in our leaders and what we are REALLY looking for from them.
DO we just want the liberal version of “W”?? Or do we want a leader who actually extols the values that the left espouses?
I think we need to question what WE want and come to some consensus, both for the short term and the long term before we can HONESTLY get the leader we want and GET him/her elected.
“When the country is ruled with a light hand
The people are simple.
When the country is ruled with severity,
The people are cunning.
Happiness is rooted in misery.
Misery lurks beneath happiness.
Who knows what the future holds?
There is no honesty.
Honesty becomes dishonest.
Goodness becomes witchcraft.
Man’s bewitchment lasts a long time.
Therefore the sage is sharp but not cutting,
Pointed but not piercing,
Straightforward but not unrestrained,
Brilliant but not blinding.”
I’m going to print that and post it next to the monitor!
Thanks for sharing that.
My pleasure, Smedley.
It ticks me off when those on the right try to smear Obama by saying, “he’s just a community organizer,” Well, isn’t America to be considered as a huge community?
I think skill in organizing a community is a really essential in leading a nation, state or city.
@Kilgore….Excellent point! A normal, rational person would think that the skills one hones as a Community organizer would be necessary for a political leader!
Sadly, they don’t seem to understand that!
abby, the number of things they don’t understand is staggering. They actually think it’s a put down.
I often see this when righties try to compare Palin to Obama. Invariably they say, “well, Palin was a governor and a mayor, and Obama was just a community organizer.”
It would anger me to no end, if I allowed it.
KT, apologies..St Wasilla was a half-governor, thereby decreasing her total value by 50%.
The Palinites don’t like to acknowledge that she quit her job halfway through. They just can’t see that quitting is not a good thing for a POTUS to do.
When I think of all the people who idolize Palin, I get evil thoughts! 😉
all those evil thoughts Should have some impact..Where is Karma when you need it??? 🙂
KT, from your keyboard to God’s email!!!
jkk, that’s the only problem I have with Karma. It is sometimes painfully slow. But it WILL come.
Holy Shit!! jkk, that photo of her would scare flies away from a turd.
KT…no doubt, they are a very naive lot!
I’m sometimes so baffled by their silly arguments, that all I can do is laugh. Otherwise I would simply go postal! 🙂
Abby – I’m with you. I’m a very patient person in life ( how else could I live with 100 sorority girls) but I find myself steaming at the RW arguments that hold no logic. Thank god I found this place before I stroked out!
I just thought this might be a good place to mention that I have the patience of a saint and an always willing to help a friend should you need someone to watch the Sorority girls while you take a well earned two week vacation.
Killgore, especially for you: [img]http://planetpov.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Sarah-Palin-NOPE-jpg-e1300291216473.jpg[/img]
@Truth…seeing that poster almost make me throw up a little.
I know – but then, that big NOPE elates me a lot! Bye, bye, Ms P!!!
Seeing Russia from America’s doorstep,
Hearing Real America singing,
Alaska’s North Star is
Restoring freedom – a
Triumph of the Will!
Contribute your Sarah Palin shart acrostic today!
Leni Riefenstaal would be proud.
The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin is a book I won’t be reading, but I find the Amazon page kind of funny.
It’s a book by Joe McGinniss that purports to be a “startling and penetrating examination of the illusion and reality of Palin.”
What amused me was the list of “Tags Customers Associate with This Product.” The ones on the first page are:
unfit for office
narcissistic personality disorder
third rate reality show actress
OH Buddy…that was very funny, thanks for sharing.
What’s wrong with the list?
You jsut described 2/3 of the GOP, and they think they’re ok!! (Actually, they think they’re role models 🙂
That IS funny buddy. And every bit of it true.
Thanks Truth! A very big NOPE!
“ Community organizer ” means “ you know, those people ”. It’s the new version of “ welfare queen ”.
Around my neck of the woods, the response has been:
“Pontius Pilot was a Governor. Jesus was a community organizer.”
Tends to make the RW steam. Worth it, just for that.
I really like it!
A Community Organizer has been given the task of cleaning up one of America’s most difficult times. I believe he is doing a decent job with what he inherited. Would I have liked him do do more, yes of course, but I’m not the one in charge. Who knows what our leaders really know when campaigning and than what they know once in leadership. Let’s not forget also that our last President had an MBA from Harvard and in what condition did he leave the country in.
Hi Big AL!!!! Missed you!
Great points! Thanks for adding!
Thanks Abby for this very thought provoking post.
BTW, I did send an email to the White House to suggest that someone needs to be reading PlanetPOV. Hopefully they already are.
That would be nice.
Great post Abby. Two other points about leaders. Some leaders are not recognized in their time and leaders words are usually far ahead of their actions because their actions are muffled by the basic conservative nature of people.
I think Lincoln was the best leader this country ever had and he was the most hated American president in his time by far obviously. But not just in the south but in the North as well. Radical Republicans who were more like the progressives of today hated much of what Lincoln was doing because they thought he acted slowly on freeing the slaves and prosecuting the war on the South. Read the reactions from abolitionists after Lincoln’s first inaugural address when he tried to reach out to the South. Lincoln made constant attempts at what we would call bipartisanship today when selecting Democrats in his cabinet. Hell he picked Andrew Johnson, a Democrat as his running mate the second time just so he could smooth over things with the South when the war was over.
We are in a cold civil war today with both ideological ends of the political spectrum vehemently hate the moderates and pragmatist. It’s happening on the right with the teaparty hating any politician that does want to start a revolution to make this country a libertarian paradise and with many on the left who want to make this a socialist Utopia. I hear constantly means justify ends rationalizations from both sides.
Of course lost in the moment is what Obama has actually accomplished so far. One of my biggest arguments to illustrate healthcare was a right was to point to the studies that showed the lack of access to our healthcare system in this country caused tens of thousands of Americans to needless die due to not getting treatment mostly because they did not have insurance coverage. It is in fact our greatest humanitarian crisis in this country. That’s why I stated over and over that Universal Healthcare coverage was the goal. Again if the ACA is implemented successfully that will be Obama’s biggest legacy at least domestically and on no other issue when it came down to the time ACA was all but dead (lest we not forget many progressives wanted it dead as well) he led and passed the ACA with Pelosi and Reid. Of course I could be totally wrong because we are in the present, future events could change everything and the history of this president’s legacy is yet to be written.
Oh, of course, it’s KQuark! I’m starting to notice we agree a lot. 🙂
I have made the same comparison with Lincoln for the past year – it is one I find rather, er, deeply uplifting and moving. The letter to the New York Tribune, 22 August 1862, is one of my favourite items in my cut-and-paste Obamabox – I think every word of it is as true of our current President as of Lincoln.
I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.
I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
Roosevelt, that is one of my favorite quotes. Do we want to elect people to be so ideological that they cannot see circumstances change and it requires a modification for a solution that best serves the country? From one of your previous comments about pragmatism, I can look back at some very foolish notions I have had because of both ignorance and ideology. Seeing only in black and white is not using one’s full abilities.
One of the things I believe made Roosevelt such an effective leader, was that HE wasn’t a strict ideologue and was more interested in results.
I also think his background and ‘insider’ knowledge of the elite (as HE WAS one of them) helped him KNOW how to handle THEM. The elite of the time, DID consider him a traitor to his ‘kind’ and were not his greatest fans.
I think that is one of the things that hurts Obama, he is NOT of their class, and as such even though he is a self made man and has attained the same educational credentials that THEY have…he is not one of ‘them’ and is not able to play the game the way FDR was able to do.
Exactly Social Security was a huge compromise. It did not cover professions that were dominated by women and minorities and at the time did not even cover most federal workers. As far as being universal it covered far less workers than the ACA does today when fully implemented.
I also agree with your “one of them” hypothesis.
KQ…you bring up an excellent point…it wasn’t the system we have today, when it was first unveiled. IT has evolved, as does much or most of our legislation.
Side note, some of FDR’s ideas put forth in the beginning of the New Deal, didn’t make it past the SCOTUS of the time…who were VERY conservative. FDR’s New Deal, met with many defeats from the SCOTUS in the early years of his presidency. As luck and time would have it, FDR was able to replace those VERY conservative members with those more to his liking and by the end of his presidency had succeeded in replacing ALL of them, with judges of HIS liking.
Personally, I would prefer a leader that does not give away bargaining points before he gets to the negotiation table.
I guess I am looking for a better poker player. I thought Obama had a decent poker face, but he seems to prefer letting everyone know what he’s holding when the cards are dealt.
That’s what Hillary and McCain thought too… 😆
Say, did you catch that rousing pro-labor speech Vice President Biden gave in Madison last Saturday? Now THAT’s leadership. Have you ever heard such a rousing stem-winder, that hit all the right notes? Isn’t that what you’d expect from the Hope and Change leadership of our country? Seriously, did you hear his speech?
Neither did I…
Abby–great post! I have chores today and will wait to give this the comment it deserves.
@Cher, Thanks. I really wanted to open up a discussion as to what do PEOPLE and especially the left want from our leaders.
I think there are so many different perspectives and concepts that many believe equates to a good leader, that is causing some added friction, to an already contentious situation.
IF we don’t all WANT the same kind of leadership or if WE all have different definitions of what a good leader means….and WE don’t discuss are different ideas…how can we EVER hope to seek consensus and thus find the leaders we want?
Exactly, and that’s why I appreciate your article greatly. It should be filed somewhere in the reference section!!!
Interesting subject, Abby, and thanks for bringing it up.
I rarely try to define things in terms of negatives, but in this case, I think there are a few traits that would raise red flags in terms of a leader’s trustworthiness:
1. An unwillingness to take personal risks for “the cause.” Throwing others under the bus instead.
2. An interest in getting personally rich.
3. Lack of a healthy sense of humor. Only finding humor in other peoples’ misfortune.
Any or all of the above is reason to run top speed in the opposite direction of any purported “leader.”
Hi, Abby. Good topic.
Leadership is standing for something bigger than yourself. Sometimes leadership is standing up and saying, “Follow me,” the classic Infantry leadership motto. Sometimes it can be saying nothing at all, but leading by example, by following a moral code and not asking of others what you would not do yourself. Leadership is telling the truth when speaking the truth is difficult. Leadership is communicating clearly, convincingly and being willing to put the country’s (or others’) interests ahead of your own. Leadership is inspiring people to do what they did not think they could achieve.
Put simply, a leader is anyone who can convince people to follow them. I think the definition of a “good leader” is transient. Changing depending on the situation we are looking to be led from or to.
There are some qualities that most people agree on as far as leadership. Confidence, intelligence, moral certitude, and, most importantly, similar religious beliefs.
What kind of leader am I looking for? Well, what kind of leader would I be? In a word: ruthless. America needs to be ruled by an iron-fisted tyrant for awhile. Not the pretend ones we claim are in charge now, but the real deal. An actual fascist state. I just want to see what the people who call this place a fascist state everyday would do if they found themselves in an actual fascist state. I bet it doesn’t go well.
That’s what America needs. Perspective.
Didn’t this kind of leadership just end in ’09?
Dubyah’s regime is as close to a fascist state as I ever want to experience. We were fed the ‘news’ they wanted us to hear. Laws were passed for ‘our own good’. The ‘Homeland’ became secure via an act. I waited for brown to become the new…whatever. ‘Christianity’ became the law of the land.
I am at a loss for answers. I can’t even begin to figure out what will pull this country from the cesspool in which it now languishes. You may just be correct, Adonia…may the gods help us if you are.
Sorry AD we are at odds again.
Two steps backwards does not even equal three steps forward let alone the the two plus steps forward we need.
Americans have perspective, the election of an African American by over 10MM votes proved that, we need more discernment.
KQ, People didn’t elect Obama to be their President. They elected him to be their nanny. Their babysitter.
And we have plenty of time to “improve the country”. I just want to whip these loud babies into shape before we do.
Adonai, what do you mean by, “a fascist state?” Do you mean a centralized government that runs our corporations, or do you mean a totalitarian state, run by a dictator?
I think a good leader should not be a hardcore leftist or a right wing fanatic. A good leader should be liberal when an issue requires a liberal approach, and conservative when an issue requires a conservative approach.
Locking a leader into one political philosophy or another is a sure way to stagnation.
KT – Well, you can’t really have a fascist state anymore without some form of totalitarianism. It’s a small step from authoritarianism. Since the early 20th century, anyways. Fascism kinda went hard right then. It’s not classical fascism, I know, but it’ll work in a pinch!
I agree with the flexible leader part. But I would favor the one who leaned to the left on most issues. Liberals have always been concerned with people, and conservatives are concerned with property.
Adonai, fascism has always been far right. The term fascist is derived from Mussolini’s Fascisti Party that was established in 1922.
Hitler was so impressed by it, that he used fascist principles in his National Socialist organization, in other words, the NAZI party.
As far as flexibility is concerned, I stand by my comment.
I agree about the nature of leadership. it’s simply the act of a person leading, I’m not evn sure if followers are necessary. If you’re playing a game of follow the leader and the followers miss a turn and get lost your still the leader.
You only have to wait as long as now to see how people react to a fascist state. The difference you might see between here and a “real” fascist state is only a matter of degree just as comparing here to a “real” Democracy would be.
Thank you, Abbyrose86, for raising an important subject – one frequently invoked, but rarely, if ever, with any clarity – in a subtle and thoughtful manner.
A few ( rather disconnected, circuitous, and not necessarily consistent ) thoughts –
The concept of “ leadership ” is not only difficult to define, but is in itself open to some question. I recall early in the President’s Administration an occasion where he did not have an immediate statement on something because ( word to the effect that ) “ he wanted to know what he was talking about first ”.
I find this admirable. Those in the ideology-based, non-reality-based, non-cognitive community do not. In their view, value is accorded to producing the ideologically-determined “ correct ” statement as quickly as possible; consideration of such things as questions of fact, uncertain outcomes, the nuances of a particular unique situation, and so on, are indications of stupidity, incompetence, and moral turpitude. This is a concept of “ leadership ” which we may reject, with no small amount of justified smug self-satisfaction; however we should consider to what extent its presumptions colour our notions of “ leadership ”, or are indeed intrinsic to the concept ( given the obvious connections of leadership, authoritarianism, and the ideological mentality ).
A frequent criticism of the President from the Left is along the lines of – and this is a crude simplification ( or maybe not ) – why doesn’t he just wave the magic wand, why doesn’t he “ take a stand ” on this or that, why isn’t he doing this particular thing in this particular way that I think it should be done, etc. etc. Often this in basic disregard of the plain facts – how many votes there were in the Senate; that laws ( such as DADT ) cannot be repealed by executive order; that there are certain issues of institutional prestige and authority around the Government of the United States of America which tend to disincline against facilitating foreign prosecutions of government officials, whether we like or not; that it is normally the obligation of the government to uphold existing laws; and so on and so on.
Related to this is the brute fact, often ignored, that the inescapable duty of government is to represent the populace – or, more accurately, interests, of which the populace is one; and the populace, furthermore, is one divided into segments swayed by various interests. The other side is part of our nation: they cannot be saturation bombed, nuked, or gassed into nonexistence; they must be accomodated – and that accomodation can be done with varying degrees of skillfulness, with varying degrees of capitulation or noncapitulation, with varying degrees of compromising in the right places or the wrong places. I believe that the judgement of history will be that our current Administration is doing this job very well. The onerous and loathsome bailouts have been about as successful as they could have been – the Soviet Revolution may have been more admirable on principle on this point, but they were less successful in the long run ( to grossly oversimplify a complex historical subject ); pragmatism, alas, reigns.
Also related is the notion referred to of “ why isn’t he doing this particular thing in this particular way that I think it should be done ”. Earlier this evening, I momentarily reflected upon the cliché “ Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains. ” – it would be accurate, I think, if the word “ conservative ” were replaced by the word “ pragmatic ”. With the passing of some years, the unthinkable moral obscenity, “ compromise ”, becomes the very foundation of existence – in political terms, it is the essence of democracy, the accomadation described above; and what become essential are the concepts of “ politics as the art of the possible ” and of “ incremental change ”. Prior to, perhaps, mid- or late October 2008, I was not someone for whom political pragmatism or compromise were virtues. My only prior vote for a Presidential candidate was for H. Ross Perot in 1992 – never for a major party candidate ( curiously similar to my father, a Roosevelt-era American Socialist and McCarthy victim – I remember him voting for John Anderson in 1980, and saying he had almost never voted in a Presidential election ). On the other hand, and at about the same time, in the early 1990s, I found myself herbally incapacitated in front of the TV and watched the PBS American Experience program on President Johnson, and subsequent read ( and even mostly re-read ) the volumes to date of Robert Caro’s biography ( which is shorter than Proust – so far ); and came to have a gleefully idiosyncratic reverence for Johnson – the first President who I actively admired ( as distinct from sentimental received notions of Roosevelt or Kennedy ), and the down-and-dirty compromiser and deal-maker par excellence.
In the run-up to 2008, the candidates I was considering were Cynthia McKinney ( I saw her 9-11 Truthism as just one facet, and have a very different view of conspiracy thinking in general today ), Ralph Nader, and Mike Gravel. I contributed $25 to McKinney; voted for Gravel in the Democratic primary; and was skeptical of the then-Senator Obama, who struck me as too right-wing ( and Hillary Clinton was *way* out there ). ( I continue to be amused, at best, at talk of how he ran as a “ progressive ” and has since betrayed his “ base ” with every move of a finger. )
As the election approached, I began to think of the critical state of the nation; of how the two major parties really were crucially different under the circumstances; of how it was perhaps important – at least morally, as I live in a safe state – to vote for the Democratic candidate; and moreover that is seemed that the Democratic candidate would perhaps just possibly be someone like Johnson, who would be able to play the game, keep the country from collapse, maybe accomplish a good thing here or there, and — most importantly — lean the country in a direction which would be preferable to the then-current one.
What is crucial about this is that, in doing so, I made a conscious decision to entirely disregard the notion of “ agreeing ” on policy – on any policy. I accepted that some things would be good, some would be bad, that there was a good chance that overall things would be better than they might be otherwise, and that what good might be achieved could not be micro-predicted from advertised policy points.
The outcome has radically transformed my understanding of, and involvement in, politics, towards belief in pragmatism, compromise and incremental change. ( I saw it pointed out somewhere that the Civil Rights struggle was incremental – in fact, it was. ) I suppose that could seem convenient – it would have been a bummer if it hadn’t, wouldn’t it? – but I believe it is justified. I can only suggest from my own experience that I was not motivated to take that chance on Bill Clinton, nor did his Administration persuade me to such views, nor would have the present Administration ( or one of Hillary Clinton ) if it had been similar.
I do find it striking, in retrospect, that my only previous vote for a Presidential candidate was for a right-leaning one who would arguably have been a fine pragmatist. I can only assert my leftist credentials, and will supply recollections of how I grew up watching Battleship Potemkin on PBS on request.
To fast-forward a little bit, a little over two years later, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, Forty-fourth President of the United States of America ( as I like to refer to him ), is the historic LGBT Rights President in the history of our nation. There are some notable loose ends to tie up, but it is essentially done. It has happened.
I did not expect that. No-one did. And it is only a small part of the accomplishment.
And that brings me around to the idea of leadership defined as accomplishment, and of how greatly my early, decidedly non-Obamabot hopes that we might have another Johnson have been exceeded. I will not argue this Administration’s record of accomplishment; that is a plain matter of record, and I put the responsibility on the skeptic to make a cursory internet search.
( I won’t pass up the chance to post one of my favorite videos, though. )
And it is, specifically, accomplishment. It is not about such-and-such policy being executed in perfect accordance with someone else’s set of points. It is not about pronouncements being made before we can know what we are talking about ( as with Libya at present ). It is not about counter-productive trumpetings of ideologically pure policy – one notes that the then-controversial concessions on offshore drilling have duly fallen by the wayside, and one expects that the same will eventually occur with the inclusion of nuclear energy in energy policy, for an example or two.
Another part of leadership is in conduct and character – the reason why there will always be certain ironic qualifier to the achievements of Johnson; the reason why the essential humanism and potential for greatness of Nixon will always be deeply overshadowed; why the myths of Reagan will always be belied by the stark facts; why all conceivable apologies for George Walker Bush are controverted by the ineradicable spectacle of the truly grotesque and appalling buffoon who trampled the world stage for eight long years ( and to whom, curiously, the George Walker Bush of today bears little resemblance – I suspect there may be a parallel with Governor George Corley Wallace, as a person who was profoundly corrupted by political power ). In conduct and character, President Obama is truly extraordinary, given the open, disloyal, and not infrequently seditious hostility with which he has been received. His perennial forbearance, even temper, dignity, confidence, and good cheer does, indeed, make a profound impression on those who choose to see it, and it indicates someone who attention and energy it directed where it matters most, in a way few of us can hope to acheive – towards actual accomplishment; and it is integral to his continued popularity and, more importantly, the restoration of standing of our nation in the world. It is merely crude to mistake his graciousness for weakness.
So, where has President Obama led?
In his most recent State of the Union Address, the President stated: “ American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored. ”
That is true. It has happened. And that, to paraphrase the finest Vice-President since, I don’t know who, is a Big Effing Deal.
On a more trivial level, I can testify that he has transformed one American’s understanding of and involvement in politics. For me today, while I might prefer some advantages in other systems, the two major parties are not the same, and it makes a difference if and how I vote; and, if of the two major parties, there is one that I have come to unambiguously and emphatically support, I am still free to identify as independent, and expect to continue to do so. Most personally, and most importantly, today I have a President. There is not the endless, grim, grey alternation of the Mild Embarassment and the Acute Embarassment in the White House. ( I regret that I was in my early teens when President James Earl Carter left office and was unable to appreciate his Administration. ) For me today, I am invested and have an active role to play, even it is only voting and preaching to the choir on the internet – that is a fundamental difference from alienation and apathy. For me today, This Matters.
“ His name was Harvey Milk, and he was here to recruit us — ALL of us — to join a movement, and change a nation.
For much of his life, he had silenced himself. In the prime of his life, he was silenced by the act of another. But in the brief time in which he spoke, and ran, and led, his voice stirred the aspirations of millions of people. He would become, after several attempts, one of the first openly gay Americans elected to public office ; and his message of hope — hope unashamed, hope unafraid — could not ever be silenced.
It was Harvey who said it best :
‘ You gotta give ’em hope. ’ ”
President Obama Honors Harvey Milk With Presidential Medal of Freedom
Anybody heard of Jackie Robinson? Who was Jackie Robinson? He was a famous baseball player. When Jackie Robinson was a young man, you didn’t have African Americans – black people weren’t allowed to play baseball in the major leagues, and he was the first African American to play in major league baseball.
So I said, “Have I told you that you are brave?”, is what I’m saying to my daughters, and I talk about Jackie Robinson. I say, “A man named Jackie Robinson played baseball and showed us all how to turn fear into respect, and respect into love. He swung his bat, with the grace and strength of a lion, and gave brave dreams to other dreamers.”
Now, when he starting playing baseball, a lot of other people didn’t want black people to play baseball, and so they were being mean to him, and booing him, and throwing things at him; but, he was so brave that he was willing to go ahead and play anyway.
President Obama Reads to Schoolchildren
WE DON’T QUIT.
I DON’T QUIT.
BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
Forty-fourth President of the United States of America
State of the Union Address, 2010
THE FUTURE IS OURS TO WIN.
BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
Forty-fourth President of the United States of America
State of the Union Address, 2011
And for those seeking more information, how about some lovely spam?
I can’t do it by myself.
No president can.
Remember: Change doesn’t happen from the top.
It happens because of you.
BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
Forty-fourth President of the United States of America
The Best Possible President We Could Possibly Have
“ Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now ”
by Eric Alterman
Obama in Command: The Rolling Stone Interview
Sí, se puede.
I really enjoyed reading your comment, For America…It was really well thought out!
I enjoyed reading your post, thank you again!
Wow just wow.
This should be moved to it’s own post, rather than a comment.
Nicely done, even though I don’t agree with everything that was said.
Why thank you, I’m not quite ready for my official debut yet, though! The thought has been crossing my mind since I discovered the Planet, however, and I might even get around to it one of these days ( either before or after I get organizized ).
I do admittedly wave the banner and play the apologist, precisely because opinion is so divided. This was pretty off-the-cuff, and points that might be contentious could certainly be better argued, given some qualification ( or a lot ), or put in broader context to clarify the viewpoint or approach; I plead guilty wherever lacking in those regards, and agreement to disagree accepted. 🙂
Thank you again.
No excuses. Post.
I’d be happy to assist if you’d like to post this very thoughtful comment as an article. It is pretty quick and easy.
Just let me know.
In any case, well done!
Hey AdLib….. there’s a dragon waiting for you at the Help Desk………..
“This should be moved to it’s own post, rather than a comment.”
Hear! Hear! I second the motion! Roosevelt might not think here’s ready for the stage but if we shove him through the curtain he’ll be fine with the audience 🙂
I too thought it should be a separate post. So, For America, can you go to your Dashboard and make this a post please?
I co-sign that sentiment!
OK . . . it’ll be under serious consideration today . . . 🙂
OK, I’ll have a go at it today . . .