Monday, February 15, 2016

Why President Obama is Not My Enemy

Writing a blog is sometimes fraught with peril, especially when the subject is politics. It is very easy to be misunderstood. My limitations as a writer can sometimes result in people jumping to conclusions that I never intended to convey. Today's topic might very well be one of those times, but here goes.

I'm not terribly fond of the Democratic Party, have never been a big supporter of the current President. This will come as no surprise to any of you. But what may surprise some of you is this truth...President Obama is not my enemy. 

In this hyper-polarized and divided nation, compromise and accommodation have somehow become synonymous with weakness. Any compliment paid to the other side feels to some like a betrayal. Well, in my opinion, this graceless, scorched earth style of politics is toxic and may very well eventually kill this country.

Over the weekend, after the sudden passing of Justice Scalia, social media almost immediately erupted into a volcano of bad faith, some on the right voicing accusations of assassination by dark leftist forces, some on the left positively gleeful at the death of such a powerful enemy. It was shameful and unworthy of us.

The thing is, I have no enemies in politics, I have opponents. Even Donald Trump isn't my enemy. Neither is Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. They are politicians with whom I disagree, nothing more. Here's how it works:

President Obama is a good man. There are things to admire about him. We are human beings first, and as human beings go, there's a lot to like. He's a good father, for one thing, and by all accounts a fine husband. As the first family, they model all of the right qualities for our nation, a very good thing. As President, he has had some terrific moments. The speech he gave at the funeral of those killed in the attack on Gabby Gifford was beautiful. When speaking about the youngest victim of that tragedy he said, "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. All of us, we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectation." Those were beautiful words that put a lump in my throat, worthy of a President.  Although his gifts as a speaker were oversold, he has moments of brilliance, and the spoken word is one of a President's most valuable tools. The fact that I disagree with him about policy cannot and should not blind me to his gifts or force me to actively delight in his failure. 

Listen, President Obama and I, by and large want the exact same things for this country. We both want a robust economy, more and better paying jobs, better and cheaper health care, a peaceful world. In other words, we share common goals. Where we part ways is over tactics, not strategy. He is of a political philosophy that values centralized planning. His default assumptions about the problems we face are that no problem is without a government solution. In his mind, government is a positive, transformative, benign force for all things good. I totally and completely reject that line of thinking. For me, central planning bureaucrats are not agents of progress, but obstacles to progress. In my opinion, a government large and powerful enough to provide for your every need is a government large and powerful enough to take from you everything you have, and if history has taught us anything it is this...centralized power in the wrong hands is the most dangerous thing on earth.

So, I try to vote for those least enamored with blind faith in the redemptive power of government. But, as is often the case in a democracy, sometimes my guys lose. When that happens, I don't immediately start praying for my political opponents to all suddenly die in their sleep! I have never wanted President Obama to be a failure, largely because if he is a failure, my country fails. My faith instructs me to pray for my leaders. It makes no exception for party.

In November, we will elect a new President. At this point, I have no idea who it will be, although at this writing, the favorites are Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. None of them will be my enemy on innauguration day. We have a system of government that provides checks and balances on our worst instincts. I will trust that system of government to protect me from their worst policy prescriptions. Whoever the next President is will be the beneficiary of my prayers. I don't think this makes me naive or soft. I think it makes me a good citizen. Does it mean I am insufficiently partisan? I can only hope so.