Can you spell a-p-p-e-a-s-e-m-e-n-t?

Maybe I’m being unfair, too hard on him, expecting too much for a man of color, the first to be the President of a nation that continues to be in denial about its history of institutionalized racial inequality. (Tea Party anyone?)

Maybe I should be like others who give him a break for trying to be fair-minded with his political and cultural opponents in an attempt to change the way politics are done.  (As Rodney King asked post-police beating, “Can’t we all just get along?”)

Maybe I should agree with him and, implicitly, his handlers–those cagey strategists who so expertly read the opinion/political/historical tea leaves to shape such a pathetically limited vision for the candidate of “hope”–whose  incremental style is supposed to make Obama “not-Bush” and “not-Clinton” in order to create the conditions for a profound presidential legacy.  (Not!)


Enough snide sarcasm.

Today I happened to see the tail end of President Obama’s assertive remarks calling for an up/down vote on his notion of a health care bill, enough of it to recognize appeasement rhetoric hidden underneath his faux frustration with the “reform” political process over the last year.

I was particularly pleased that he felt the need again to involve the Republicans, including some of their ideas–which I won’t rehearse here–to illustrate his commitment to the careful and thoughtful embrace of political harmony in total denial of everything he should understand that, as a constitutional scholar, is at the heart of politics: interest driven conflict and struggle over power.

(Sorry. I guess I’m not done with sarcasm–yet.)

I think Barack is a decent man who wants to be virtuous; who wants the nation to be virtuous. He wants right and truth and positive morality to pervade every being and institution in this nation, but he ain’t gonna get it.  And he ain’t gonna get it by by treating everyone is if they are virtuous, moral beings with a selfless desire to serve and sacrifice for the greater good.

It ain’t gonna happen.  And he ain’t gonna get anything or any cooperation from the Republicans–ever!

Now, if he really is a smart guy who can use big words and think big, hopeful positive thoughts about the nation, he should reread The Federalist Papers, the ideological and philosophical explanation undergirding the rationale for creating a federal union which would politically become the United States in 1789 and then culturally unite, more or less, with the defeat of the south by the north in the Civil War.

He would read that agnostic text to understand that this nation was created based on assumptions that the only real important characteristic of humans is that they are motivated to satisfy their self-interests whether they be individual, cultural, regional, etc.  The federal union was organized to set these varied interests against each other in such a way to actually prevent the “demos” (Greek for mob, the irrational masses, people) from controlling governance.

It was not in the nature of masses to rule by rationality, but by their passions and therefore rule as the opposite extreme of Monarchical demagogues: the tyrrany of the mob.

So the federal system was intended to institutionalize inaction, to restrain and harness the common irrationality of the passionate masses, leaving it to those who could argue and manage the common passions in various political, judicial, and executive arenas which would also “constrain”–a key federalist term–the passions and rationalize the interests of various social and political sectors that would eventually serve the greater national good.

The end result would be a public thing: republic  ( res-publica in Latin.) NOT democracy!  (Sorry to disappoint.)

I won’t go into a radical critique of this system that also intended to protect and rationalize various kinds of inequality and servitude, especially the enslavement of Blacks transported from the African continent.

I simply summarize the essential qualities and philosophical basis for the federal arrangement and national “constitution” to remind Mr. Obama, constitutional “expert,” not to hold his breath while waiting for everyone to abandon their self-interest in order to be politically/publicly “good.”

It ain’t gonna happen.

And in that sense I agree with the agnostic “wisdom” of the founders, at least those who won the day with their federalist argument (with all its limitations and problems).

If you’re gonna understand how to govern, you have to understand that human “nature” (as they saw it) is self-interested and conflictual. It’s not about innate goodness or aspiring to be our better selves. (They weren’t being cynical, just historically and scientifically comprehensive in understanding how governments rise and fall based on human caprice. Theirs was an enlightenment project of rationally understanding human behavior in social and political terms in order to create a scientifically “more perfect union.”)

It’s about power, power, power, i.e. how to institutionalize one’s self-interest rationally and politically in the ongoing conflict of various organized self-interests.

The last three years of Obama’s four year term are going to be long, hard hauls if his “leadership” on the health care reform effort is any indication. (He really didn’t display any effective leadership–basically leaving it up to congress to work it out, except for promising concessions to big Pharma early on–until recently when he finally had to realize that his efforts of bipartisanship have been for naught.  Why it took him and his advisers one year to figure that out…  Can you spell C-L-U-E-L-E-S-S?)

Unless he becomes more of the Alinsky-like community organizer that his Chicago experience once supposedly taught him to be, learning to demand public accountability of himself and congress and perform spirited, even controversial public “actions” to reinforce the rhetoric instead of hoping for bipartisanship and good feelings, he will get nothing and do even less as president.

He will get his “wins” in the form of legislation that really don’t change the way things are done in Washington such as his senate version of the health care bill. Insurance companies, Wall Street, the top economic/social/political players will continue to reap the benefits of Obama’s efforts at reform because they are not and will not be held accountable for their immorality much as the previous administration will not be made to account for theirs at the expense of the American “people.”

I don’t hold my breath for this president based on the evidence of his performance so far.  In some sense, dare I say, he believes in an illusion, a dream.  He needs to go back and read the basics, flaws and all, of the “constitution”–not the document, but the historical, ideological, and political record–of this nation if he is to understand where he is, who he is and what that means if he really intends to change how Washington and this nation does business.

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