Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sizing up Obama

The New Yorker had a detailed profile of Barack Obama this past week ("The Conciliator," by Larissa MacFahquhar, May 7, 2007), which helped fill in my picture of the person and the candidate. Some impressions:
  • I was especially pleased that he was described as "freakishly comfortable with himself." Politicians tend to be Enneagram Threes (performers dying to please) or Eights (charismatic powerhouses), and Obama breaks the mold by being low-key, reflective, and really well integrated in his being. Some political observers wonder whether that is entirely a good thing for his campaign -- what sane, well-integrated person would ever embark on a national political campaign? -- but I'm sure it is the secret to his status as a political phenome.
  • I also was glad that he was confirmed to be a true "regular guy." Most politicians have larger-than-life notions of themselves and have to strain to pretend to be a regular guy; they seize upon the props, the hot dog and the coat over the shoulder, to look like a regular guy. Obama, amazingly, is a regular guy. Part of that stems from the fact that Obama struggled his entire life to become that regular Midwestern black man, securing an identity for himself outside of his turbulent upbringing.
  • The article correctly identified the source of his cross-party appeal: he talks about liberal causes with conservative language. Someone with a conservative philosophy will not have an allergic reaction to his rhetoric, and still have the feeling of moral uplift by being "the good guy" who is trying to help the poor and the downtrodden. He really is the "compassionate conservative" that Republicans have tried to become in the last few years.
  • Just because someone has great appeal as a person does not mean he is necessarily the right person to vote for. I could easily be seduced by Obama for his personal bearing, his personal story, and his conservative outlook, but not be entirely happy with his governance. Critics have said his voting record is about as liberal as they come.
  • Still, what comforts me the most is that his notion of progress is slow, careful, and incremental. His policy proposals are strikingly modest and realistic. And actually, I think that's what our federal policy needs right now -- a tiny nudge to the left, not a swing. At least that would be better than what we have now: Republicans who fail to deliver on a truly conservative platform of fiscal responsibility.



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