“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Revolution Was Not Televised

Universal health care. Energy security. Clean, green, renewable energy. Economic regulation. Reliance upon science and education. And yes, even world peace. These are the stuff of bumper stickers. But over the past 2-3 decades they have quietly become representative of the dominant philosphy of the majority. That's right, the majority. Want evidence? Try here, here, here, and here. Yes, you can quibble about the specific meaning of specific surveys, but the overall message was sent loud and clear last November 4. Obama won not because his election was an historic marker of improvement in race relations, but because he promised the change that people desired.

Many of us who have yearned and worked for this new era have been spending a lot of time just breathing the fresh air emanating from the Obama WH. But the truth is that while there remain battles ahead to be won, the odds are already heavily stacked in our favor, because the change we have been seeking has fundamentally already happened. It has happened in the hearts and minds of millions here and billions around the world. There are certainly land mines aplenty that could reroute or even derail the train, but there is no doubt that it has left the station. In many respects, the Obama administration is really not the driver of change, but just the cautious emissary of the change that has already occurred. For example, the president gave a speech in Prague, Czech Republic yesterday in which he pledged a new. long-term effort to improve peace and security (not to mention reduced military spending) through a new strategy that could permit systematic reduction in stockpiles of nuclear weapons and reduce the perceived need of new nations to join the nuclear club. A few years ago, such a proposal, coming from an American president, would have been thought ridiculous and politically suicidal. Today, although there will be objections from predictable quarters, there will be no great political price to pay for this announcement. It is expected. It is already built into the framework of the idea marketplace.

So, what about those who would have this president fail? The Karl Roves and the Rush Limbaughs are certainly still out there. They still have a significant following of those who are for various reasons convinced that the changes are designed to take something away from them, though that is not true. For that reason, it remains important to hold up to public ridicule the messengers who would provide trumped up reasons for believing such falsehoods. But the reason that they are so locked into the rear-guard action of trying to promote the failure of the president is that without that, they lack the power to significantly alter the course of events in the forseeable future, and power is what they are all about. Only if Obama fails will the public change its mind about the change they have requested.

That is also the reason that we who have been in the vanguard keep focused on the big picture. There are going to be compromises made by the WH as it seeks to implement the big agenda described above. Some of those compromises will be painful. As an educator, I am not especially confident that I will like all of the administration's proposals regarding merit incentives, for example. I might not approve of all of the energy proposals that might be agreed to. I don't promise to stay silent about these, but I do intend to make sure that my primary goal is the broad implementation of the policy agenda that Obama is pursuing, with the recognition that the only way it can be broadly defeated is if Obama is perceived to have failed. In an ideal world, it would not be necessary to have the agenda so closely tied to one person, but we need to live in the real world. The greater truth is that, in the future, if Obama succeeds, the agenda can become not merely majority sentiment, but a self-driving force that demands that all political actors adopt it. The revolution may not have been televised, but its consecration must be.