Welcome. This here blog offers what I learn, in commentary for all its worth. Know that I try to know best, when I know anything at all.

Journey onward!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sitting President Sits with Jay Leno: A Post-Partisan Act

Thursday night, Obama sits in with Jay Leno. Some see this as good, some bad, and most say risky at the least. These are all legit opinions except that they are all irrelevant. I argue that Obama's choice was a matter of necessity, if he is intent on proving his commitment to the promise of "changing" Washington.

Obama's appearance, unprecedented for a sitting president, gives him an unprecedented chance to vet his unprecedented promise: achieve a post-partisan Washington, somehow, by relegating partisan ideology to the back-burner in politics. Some promise, isn't it!

In reality, he faces a poisonously partisan Congress wherein neither parties are willing to yield their party lines. While not surprising, this impasse effectively voids Obama's promise of change. As Washington looks today, post-partisan politics will not appear any time soon, much less bipartisan agreement on anything of import.

But Obama still has his trump card: popularity. He must use it or fail his promise.

At this point, the only way Obama can move Washington toward a post-partisan future is by appealing directly to the people. If he cannot do this effectively, Congress will forever remain as we know it today: divided by ideology, and speaking of things as they ought to be rather than as they really are.

All this while reality burns.

In fact, Obama really does not have a choice but to go straight to the people. Democracy requires that Congress speaks the language of its electorate and none other. Even as president, Obama can talk post-partisan all he wants but it does not mean Congress will speak his language. The only way to "change" Congress, therefore, is to "change" the people.

After all, how can we expect our leaders to transcend partisanship when their own electorate cannot? Lots of Americans are fed up with our government, but they want to look for the cause of their malcontent in all but the most obvious place, which is the mirror.

Obama understands this, but he cannot say it. This is why he decided to take the unorthodox step of appearing with a talk show host. If appearing on Jay Leno lessens the stature of the presidency, it is because Obama thought it necessary to attain his goal. Necessity and pragmatism are, of course, the definition of a post-partisan act.

Tomorrow night on Jay Leno, Obama must defend himself by making a post-partisan case for why his agenda leans so heavily on classically liberal ends. He must convince Americans that there is a practical need for doing so, not because he is a liberal nut trying to remake the country in his own partisan image. And he must do this without a teleprompter, which is why I suspect he chose this venue.

Because spending is a liberal thing, Obama must face the people and convince us that spending is also a thing of necessity in today's anemic economy. Making this kind of argument directly to the people is what it takes to bring post-partisan politics to Congress.

The political situation in Congress today is more than mere partisan gamesmanship, but getting perilously close to political brinkmanship. Obama cannot be the man who "changes" Congress because he does not elect its members. Rather, it is the American people who sets the tone in Congress, an institution designed to speak the language of its electorate (too often does it work the other way around). Tomorrow night, if Obama can convince enough Americans that he is pursuing an imminently post-partisan agenda, not just a liberal one, it would be a small step toward a post-partisan Washington.

Jay Leno is a risky but necessary step, given the political climate today. This move is very courageous on Obama's part and has earned my respect. For my part, I will be watching very closely not at what he proposes, but in how he proposes it.

Therein lies the key to post-partisan success.


atanas entchev said...

Writing this blog is a journey I commend you for taking, regardless of whether I agree with your thoughts (I happen to agree, for the most part).

The journey is the destination.

miles said...

Thanks Atanas. You definitely understand the reason why I write, which is more about self-discovery than anything else.

Yes, the journey is the destination.. but I have to admit, so far I really hate the writing part as much as I love the result -_- Seems that's an existential crisis I'll have to sort out!

That said, please share your disagreements! I won't be discovering very much if my rants go unchallenged ^_^