Cross-posted at Eclectablog.com.
Historian and syndicated columnist P.M. Carpenter has a new op-ed piece out on CNN's website called Why right and left won't cheer Obama". In it, he attempts to explain the chasm between how President Obama is perceived by those on the left, the right & middle and reality.
Here's how describes how President Obama is seen by those he describes as the "pseudoconservatives" (using that term since he feels that genuine conservatives were long ago killed off by right-wing zealots):
The pseudoconservatives' perception is that Obama's success is a sprinting, despotic socialism enforced by jackbooted bureaucrats of anti-constitutional intensity.
Having spent some time on the Tea Party Nation's mailing list, I can confirm that this is quite accurate and may even be sugar coating it.
In his piece, Carpenter accurately describes the pseudoconservatives as having adopted a mindset free of nuance or shades of grey:
More and more these pseudoconservatives cloak themselves in the anti-intellectual rags of what the magnificent political historian Richard Hofstadter once so aptly called the "paranoid style." To the radical right, Hofstadter observed, "The enemy is clearly delineated: He is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman -- sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving." That is, Barack Obama.
At some vague point in our nation's history, pseudoconservatives adopted a blanket mindset against all not with them: the grays of the opposition vanished, "the enemy" plotted and schemed from some unholy abyss of wholly un-American motives, and the whites of their own hats began sparkling with a virtuous superiority.
He then talks about the left who he says "now meekly call themselves 'progressives'" due to the "pseudoconservatives' ruthless campaign of label intimidation".
On opposite ground, today's progressive activists (known in some unmentioned circles as the "professional left") perceive Obama's success as a tragic, alienating failure simply because that success has been less than 100 percent. Their ideological purity is a brutal taskmaster; it accepts no compromise with political realities.
It wants and demands a society approaching Utopia -- and that Utopia lies, it seems, only inches away from a snarling, presidential ideologue. They'll deny that, but their own snarling, in my mind, tends to outweigh their pleas of innocence.
The "traditional liberalism's rank and file", however, according to Carpenter, have few problems with the President. They understand, he says, that "American's utopian future still likely remains at least a few years down the road.
He describes those in the "nonideological middle" as "pinball victims of messaging wars" and believes that they may become far more supportive "given a vastly improved White House communications operation".
The reality about President Obama's first half-term in office he says is this:
[E]xtraordinary success within a mere half-term… -- a stimulus package that prevented the Great Depression II; health care reform that achieves the decades-long goal of near universality; financial reform that reimposes some grown-up supervision of Wall Street .
P.M. Carpenter has framed this perfectly, in my opinion. Those on the right paint in broad strokes and cartoon characters. It brings to my mind the lyrics of one of my favorite Joe Jackson songs, "Right and Wrong", where he is talking about the presidency of Ronald Reagan:
I think I hear the President
The pied piper of the TV screen
Is gonna make it simple
And he's got it all mapped out
And illustrated with cartoons
Too hard for clever folks to understand
Yeah, they're more used to words like:
But they say it's not the issue
They're not talkin' 'bout right or left
They're talkin' 'bout...
Right and wrong - do you know the difference?
In a recent screed from Judson Phillips titled Complete success or total Socialism (membership required), he says this:
If we are going to win this war on socialism, we must not only take the socialists out of government but also take apart their support structures that make it possible for them to push their agenda.
As a new budget is proposed this year, we must go through it and get the House to eliminate any funding for liberal groups. In our personal lives, we need to work on eliminating support for liberal groups. Does your church contribute to these liberal groups or advocate liberal positions, such as Amnesty? Quit contributing and find one who does not.
This is a war. It is socialism versus freedom. In war, you win by denying your enemy the ability to make war. The left’s ability to make war on freedom comes from their ability to get money. We must turn off their money supply. When we do that, we will take the government away from them, destroy the organs of liberalism and make certain liberals are never again in a position to control the government.
In Phillips' world, there is no middle ground. There is no possibility that liberals will ever have an idea with which he can agree. If churches support liberal causes, they should be destroyed. If social programs that help Americans are supported by liberals, they must be eliminated. Black and white. Cartoons.
Liberals also frequently fall into the trap of ideological purism. It's a rare display when someone on the left says, "I was wrong, the President did know what he was doing." Rather, even if his action ultimately results in the outcome we desire, we find ways to pick holes in it anyway. It didn't go far enough. It didn't come soon enough. Something else was more important. We too often hold tight to stances we've taken and cannot concede that another approach may also have been valid.
Both sides of the political divide seem to demand near-perfection from political leaders. One wrong vote, one wrong strategic move, one wrong agreement with "the enemy" and they are tossed aside to be primaried and replaced by someone who will agree them, point by point.
Meanwhile, to use an American football metaphor, the President keeps moving the ball down the field, one strategic play at a time. He may fumble the ball from time to time. He may lose a few yards on one play that need to be made up in subsequent plays. But, when the dust settles, he achieves things nobody thought possible. And that is why those Americans in the ideological middle are still supporting him. They aren't as immersed in the day-to-day details of governing. They don't get into the philosophical or strategic weeds as deep as many of us. They see the bigger picture of the outcomes. And, so far, there have been significant victories.
"Despotic socialism enforced by jackbooted bureaucrats of anti-constitutional intensity" or "tragic, alienating failure"? The truth is that President Obama is neither. He is simply a man with a long-term vision and the patience to let things play out.
I trust him.
I'm just sayin'…