Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
Why has Barack Obama been such a disappointment to many progressives? More importantly, why has he failed the country in a time of crisis?
It's largely because Obama does not understand how bullies operate, according to a prominent political psychologist. Obama has a poor grasp of "bully dynamics," says Drew Westen, professor of psychology at Emory University and author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation.
Westen presents numerous insights in a recent op-ed piece for The New York Times. It's titled "What Happened to Obama?" and it should be required reading for the many Americans who voted for Obama and are watching him shrink before our eyes.
Westen points to two overriding failings of the Obama administration: (1) The president is a gifted orator who has failed to use those skills to communicate boldly with the American people; (2) The president is a constitutional scholar who has failed to stand up for fundamental matters of justice.
Under item No. 2, Obama has allowed himself to be bullied by Republican rivals who specialize in such tactics. Westen speaks eloquently on this point and notes the irony of our first black president being virtually clueless about the principles that drove Martin Luther King:
The president is fond of referring to "the arc of history," paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous statement that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." But with his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics -- in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time -- he has broken that arc and has likely bent it backward for at least a generation.
When Dr. King spoke of the great arc bending toward justice, he did not mean that we should wait for it to bend. He exhorted others to put their full weight behind it, and he gave his life speaking with a voice that cut through the blistering force of water cannons and the gnashing teeth of police dogs. He preached the gospel of nonviolence, but he knew that whether a bully hid behind a club or a poll tax, the only effective response was to face the bully down, and to make the bully show his true and repugnant face in public.