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The disagreements between those who were critical of president Obama and those who were Obama loyalists are not that different from what they were in the first year of this administration.  The unfortunate thing from where I sit is not so much that there are disagreements about, well, just about everything, but that we are getting worse and not better at navigating our disagreements.

I don't do meta diaries, so please consider this a simple reminder that both the president and his critics agree about the vital role of the internet for a vigorous democratic culture.

Early in his administration, the president went to China, and while he was there,  sought to encourage greater openness and democracy.  In talking about its value for China, he couldn't help but reflect on what it means for Americans and for the American president.

Speaking at a "town hall" in Shanghai  he was responding to a question about the use of Twitter, obviously a reference to the free flow of ideas in China.

Obama came down on the side of the use of the internet to criticize government officials -- himself included. Here is part of what he said, according to the transcript:

...I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear. It forces me to examine what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.

Here is the fuller context of the president's thoughtful statement about the nature of robust democracy.  I think his words are something on which we can all agree, whether we have been critics or defenders -- or both.  

And so I've always been a strong supporter of open Internet use.  I'm a big supporter of non-censorship.  This is part of the tradition of the United States that I discussed before, and I recognize that different countries have different traditions.  I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet -- or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged.

Now, I should tell you, I should be honest, as President of the United States, there are times where I wish information didn't flow so freely because then I wouldn't have to listen to people criticizing me all the time.  I think people naturally are -- when they're in positions of power sometimes thinks, oh, how could that person say that about me, or that's irresponsible, or -- but the truth is that because in the United States information is free, and I have a lot of critics in the United States who can say all kinds of things about me, I actually think that that makes our democracy stronger and it makes me a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear.  It forces me to examine what I'm doing on a day-to-day basis to see, am I really doing the very best that I could be doing for the people of the United States.

And I think the Internet has become an even more powerful tool for that kind of citizen participation.  In fact, one of the reasons that I won the presidency was because we were able to mobilize young people like yourself to get involved through the Internet.  Initially, nobody thought we could win because we didn't have necessarily the most wealthy supporters; we didn't have the most powerful political brokers.  But through the Internet, people became excited about our campaign and they started to organize and meet and set up campaign activities and events and rallies.  And it really ended up creating the kind of bottom-up movement that allowed us to do very well.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 11:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  And we will to the best of our (8+ / 0-)

    ability keep real conversation alive.  

    I am astounded by the writings of Thomas Jefferson. He said he never wanted to hear the same thing twice, simply because he had already heard it, and he felt it demeaning that people felt the need to repeat themselves.

    It seems all we get these days are the same arguments over and over again.  An endless loop of gripes and complaints.  I always ask where are the original ideas.  And people think it's a trick "gotcha" question.  (To coin President Obama.)

    If we can ever get past fixating on one man, one ideology, one "right" answer, and have a conversation, we may actually make progress.

  •  It may all be over before we know it. (9+ / 0-)

    Obama will be gone, if not in 2016, then in 2012.  Either way, we'll get a new president and we'll all have a chance to form new love/hate relationships with him/her.

    If we were smart, which we're not (really, just look at my name), we might be gearing up for the post-Obama progressive movement.  We'll need it eventually.  Inasmuch as the debates about Obama's goodness/badness relate the form and direction of that movement, they are forward-looking and not just idle ranting.

  •  Nobody here is anti-dissent. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coolbreeze, elmo, snackdoodle, imfunnytoo

    Npbody here is even anti-critique.

    There is a fundamental split here that has more to do with differing philosophies regarding the best way to approach change (and even what that change should look like).

    Supporters of the President tend the believe that the societal context for change must be created before anything more than incremental change is possible.  The critics tend to believe that the social context already exists and that tougher leaders can deliver it if they choose.

    We dance around it and talk past each other endlessly, but this is the debate that exists below the surface. It has little to do with dissent.

    If Kucinich, Grayson, Sanders or Feingold were President, you'd be accusing them of betrayal right now.

    by snout on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 12:14:13 AM PDT

    •  Yes, I think you're right (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snackdoodle, boofdah, loggersbrat, snout
      Supporters of the President tend the believe that the societal context for change must be created before anything more than incremental change is possible.  The critics tend to believe that the social context already exists and that tougher leaders can deliver it if they choose.

      Fundamentally, though, this is a factual dispute. When we can't agree on the facts, it's hard to have a debate about anything.

  •  As for dissent... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    boofdah, imfunnytoo

    One of our Founding Fathers said, (can't remember which one), "In a Republic, dissent is the highest form of patriotism."

    "He who gives up his freedom for security receives neither"

    by coolbreeze on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 12:42:25 AM PDT

    •  Fact checker: "Debunking spurious quotes" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Frederick Clarkson, snackdoodle

      As Jefferson himself noted, "So many persons have of late found an interest or a passion gratified by imputing to me sayings and writings which I never said or wrote..." (TJ to Alexander White, 10 September 1797). More than two hundred years later, Jefferson is of course not here to correct any wrongful "imputations," but we are. Please take advantage of our years of debunking spurious Jefferson quotes, and read on for information on some of the most frequent and recent troublemakers...

      Link: Monticello.org

      Fight the smears! OBAMA '2012!

      "Grab a mop!" - President Barack Obama

      by dirigo on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 04:20:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How long until.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frederick Clarkson, boofdah

    How long until the Tea Party and it's drones begin religiously clammering that dissent be crushed, out of reflexive need to oppose Obama?

    "The curve of the universe is long, but bends towards justice'.

    by SirNitram on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 12:46:25 AM PDT

  •  Another "Obama Diary" (4+ / 0-)

    Is the sap rising tonight?

    This one, however I shall both Tip and Rec for the sheer effrontery of introducing something new and worthwhile.

    Thanks

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Sun Aug 28, 2011 at 01:29:58 AM PDT

  •  I think that talking back to people that demonize (5+ / 0-)

    the President from the Left or the Right is good use of the open discourse that we find available to us.  There is a difference between criticism, vibrant discourse, debate, critical thinking and things like dissembling, demonization, dehumanization, verbal bullying, etc.  Its also not a misuse of our open forum here or other places to call those things out when they happen.  Those that engage in those things will certainly retaliate.  That is to be expected too.

  •  I'm getting so tired of prefacing an argument (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snackdoodle, boofdah, imfunnytoo

    in support of the Pres' position or in opposition to an unfair attack with " I don't agree with everything the President's done." "I've criticized the President on many things..." etc. that I'm thinking of just posting comments like " I think the President can do no wrong." or " The President is the only adult in the room." etc.

    Regardless of criticism on this or that, or the hating, the "left" needs for this President to be re-elected by a wide margin, and bring in a lot of Dems with him.
    So it's all pretty much a moot point.
    Great diary.

    •  The view of some here (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      boofdah, imfunnytoo

      seems to be that "the left" needs for this President to be defeated by one of the right wing nutjobs so things will get so bad that a progressive tsunami will be created for 2016.  I think many of the diaries and comments that whomp on the President personally come from this vein of thought.

      •  Who is defending that kind of strategy? (0+ / 0-)

        First, where is the 'personal' attack on Obama you describe?

        The main part of the criticisms is the fear that the inadequate stimulus and   the inadequate efforts on jobs, around 40% of which was useless tax breaks $$$ compared to actual stimulus funds, the failure to comprehensively investigate and admonish the banking system's huge criminal failure to operate ethically and constructively will cause the BHO campaign to look very weak on domestic problems of the economy and cost him his reelection.

        That is something he has to face because his biggest donors are from the Financial Insurance Real Estate group (FIRE) and he needs to keep them donating. Which makes his ability to get farreaching legislation or policy done  in those areas very hard for fear of losing his most important dollar sources.

            He is getting roasted around here because the lack of anything substantial happening in the economy is a very telling sign of trouble for an incumbent.

                If we don't tell him we noticed, wouldn't  he keep brushing off the attacks from the repubs as  so much shoulder fluff?  Will he continue to believe he is immune to the political criticism because his own supporters are completely skeptical of the partisan attacks and trusting his inaction as perfectly OK?  Rather than the truth we have discovered over the last 2.7 years?

        He has done any number of very good things. Unfortunately only a  few have been in the field of addressing the dreadful domestic economy, and that is the core issue with many voters going into the 2012 campaign.

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