Sunday, 17 January 2010

Obama: Softly Softly Catchy Monkey?

Things aren't going that smoothly for Barack Obama. We learnt this week that his opinion ratings have dropped to a record low for this point in the Presidency. The Sunday Times carries a cartoon by Gerald Scarfe (pictured right) depicting Obama putting the sign 'No I can't' over the Camp Delta sign. Healthcare continues to divide the left and upset the right and he has been less than fulsome in putting forward the case for progressive policies relating to sexuality. Some on the left may still hope that this is a strategy best described 'as softly, softly, catchy monkey'.

Out gay Sunday Times journalist, Andrew Sullivan thinks not. His column isn't live on The Times website (maybe there is a 24 hour delay or something?) but this is his page and hopefully the article will appear. Anyway, in that article Sullivan describes Obama as 'a liberal pragmatist in politics and a traditional conservative in his understanding of the presidency'. For Brits, realising that any US President is constitutionally not some all powerful figure (very far from it) is hard idea to get our heads around given he seems to have all the 'theatre' of power.

Sullivan describes notes of the current political scene that 'those on the left who foolishly saw him as a revolutionary are in a sulk right now. Those on the right who still see him as a leftist ideologue keep railing against the reality in front of their eyes - as if contemplating a small c conservative black Democratic president is too much for their brains to grasp'. Sullivan describes Obama as stepping back 'to help to unwind polarisation and allow society to evolve'. This is where I do differ from Sullivan. Obama can create the mood music of the country. He can say, "you know what, if people of the same sex want to get married they should be able to do so, and I hope those folks down in California and across our great nation, are able to move beyond overcome some of the fears and prejudices I know some people hold". What are the right going to do? Call him the devil? They are already doing anyway. Is the Supreme Court going to feel bound to split on partisan lies? Look at the decision this week on the televising of the Perry trial and it largely is. Obama should confront the idea that to be a liberal in America is not a bad thing, not akin to the devil. To do so does not require legislation, merely the sound of his voice.

As a candidate, he offered hope and the people of the world, not just America, responded. As President, he needs to remember that in the words of Harvey Milk, 'people can't live on just hope alone'.

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