If greed and patience don’t mix then certainly idealism and patience can be equally incompatible.
The first assertion is what’s got us in this economic mess in the first place. The second is why President Barack Obama’s popularity and the patience that even his staunch supporters have shown, appears to be waning.
Nearly a year and a half after he made history as the first Black President of this country, maintaining the promise of hope as a policy goal seems now, as we head into November’s midterm elections, a slippery slope.
To blame him for our current of economic and political limbo – the foggy kind and the ‘back-bending-under-a-poll-while-dancing’ kind – and for not delivering on campaign promises of reform or progressive measures is a great lever to pull for finger pointers but a misnomer for people of action.
What is true however, is that the President, riding a wave of historical swagger and tear-jerking idealism going into the office, tried to do too much too soon: healthcare reform, economic stimulus, war escalation, Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speeches, beer summits, and being the de facto chairman of the board for America’s beleaguered car companies.
Ironically, if Obama wants to return to his hope platform, he would do well in taking a page out of the President William Jefferson Clinton playbook: It’s the economy stupid.
The drawback of fusing idealism with tenacity is that by overextending himself; even a community organizer, coalition-builder and pragmatic statesman such as President Obama; can easily hit a brick wall erected and maintained by the beltway culture. In this case by gun-shy blue-dog Democrats as well as Republicans wielding several ideological weapons and pulling the trigger at various intervals.
Even so, employed people are happy people, which is why President Clinton, who presided over one of the most prosperous period in American history, got away with scandal, duplicity, partisanship and many other “forgivable” sins.
Many with historical amnesia would say when it comes to lifting the nation out of a crisis, he’s no FDR and blame him for the current high unemployment, the extended stay in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ‘scolding-but-faithful-girlfriend’ relationship he has with the banking community. This laundry list of miscalculations are easy to heap upon the President, easy when one conveniently omits that fact that the current President inherited the war and the recession and the banking crisis and was forced to follow through on the bailout, which was also passed down to him in a political will and testament.
Yet and still, at this point a steel worker in Michigan with no job and a newly unemployed IT middle manager in Northern California doesn’t care who inherited what. They just want to pay their bills and look their family in the eyes and let them know it’s okay.
In this vein, if he wants to assure another term in office or at least wants to stop the rhetorical darts, President Obama would do well to put a laser-like focus on a sound economic policy related to job creation, the loosening of corporate credit, servicing the national debt and getting behind smart public works projects that will make this country competitive in the face of the rise of India and China. This needs to be not only job one, but jobs one through ten.
As his landslide election proved, hope can stir the soul. But as the aftermath proved, hope don’t pay the bills and hope won’t save his presidency.