Friday, April 25, 2014

Obama's Dismal Presidency

In 1951 David B. Truman, president of Mount Holyoke College, published The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion, a monumental, scholarly work on the political science of special interest groups and the federal government. Truman illustrates his chief points with history, and he offers insightful anecdotes about many of the chief twentieth century interest groups such as the American Federation of Labor, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Grange, and the American Medical Association. Truman integrates his discussion of interest groups with a discussion of the structure of the federal government; he shows how the structure of Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court determine how interest groups behave.

In Truman's chapter on the executive branch, which is near the end of the book, he dissects the characteristics of successful and effective American presidents.  He writes this (p. 403):

The president's leadership of the legislature depends heavily upon his symbolic supraparty position. Although he cannot completely ignore the pleas of partisanship, he must play upon the multiple memberships of both fellow party-members and nominal opponents in order to effect winning support for the cause he is championing.

Truman also writes this (p. 402):

The president's partisanship and partiality among groups must be kept within limits...despite the need to maintain cohesion among the elements that helped him to power.  The process by which he is nominated and elected inevitably gives some groups better access to him than others can command, but as the dominant symbol of the nation, he cannot be completely identified with a segment of it...The measure of detachment imposed on a president by his position as a chief of state is not necessarily a handicap.  The obligation to remain minimally accessible to all legitimate interests in the society can supply him with a measure of independence and a persuasive power that effectively supplements his formal authority.

By these measures, President Barack Obama's presidency has been a failure.  He has failed to represent all of America.  This failure is due to the American media, which no longer offers diversity of viewpoints that reflect the range of legitimate views in America--a problem that Truman discusses at length but which has become more serious since Truman's day, when it was already a matter of concern. Rather, like the media in a totalitarian state, the American media attempts to delegitimize legitimate opinion that deviates from Obama's narrow party line.  

Obama represents the interests of one segment of America: the pro-Wall Street left wing of the Democratic Party.  He has made no effort to compromise, whether it be in his ideologically motivated health reform, his failed cap-and-trade proposal, his use of the IRS to target conservatives and other dissidents,  and his attacks on the states in areas like his No Child Left Behind Act, er, I mean Common Core.

Obama has so divided America that, for the first time since the 1960s, we see pockets of armed resistance to the federal government. The contretemps at the Cliven Bundy ranch is a symptom of failed president who has divided rather than united a nation.  The media's ideologues, ever eager to support the federal government's authority, paint the militia who support Bundy as extremists.  Their extremism is the fruit of Obama's extremism and the extremism of the American media, which does not tolerate dissent.

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