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The Obama Tragedy: No Narrative

By       Message Robert S. Becker     Permalink
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Does No-Drama Mean No Storyline?

If tragedy occurs when anointed heroes who know better betray their own promise, Barack Obama's no-drama express is about to derail. Expect no solace from truth-telling jesters from classical tragedies, au contraire judging by lying rogues nowadays, nor anything like comic relief. Top Democrats will be relieved if they only lose the House.

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How swiftly the thrill of victory turns to the agony of defeat. And we leftists are the "crazies" needing intervention or drug therapy? If this White House cannot find a gripping narrative to justify its power, then rest assured wingnuts in the wings will reprise their perfectly coherent storyline. Brace for new and improved wedge-driven crusades against sham enemies, domestic and foreign.

Retro Bush-Cheneyism, re-sharpened by cruder minds (Beck, Palin, Limbaugh), provides breakthroughs all right, with more emotive, racial sound bites. So, what can reverse the tectonic shifts under our feet? Bad guys own a polished delivery system, with clear story, frames, and pithy proverbs, while dazed Democrats appear mute, void of rousing messages but not delayed, defensive misdirection. Game, set, and match for this midterm madness.

If not tragic, then what?

Thus, emerging lessons from the Great Obama Disappointment:

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1) Any political narrative, however coarse, beats no narrative.
2) No narrative means "wasting" the very crises true leaders leverage to build confidence and broadcast heroic accomplishments.

Worse still, repeatedly blowing big "teaching moments" makes a president appear reactive, a pawn to destiny not its master (re: natural disasters, violent conflicts, industrial, mining or oil spill "accidents," or big-time economic downturns). If great events don't get transformed to show off one's singular mettle (or veneer, W. after 9/11), then fallen leaders appear swamped by circumstances. Has Obama not had enough telling at bats?

The term "tragedy" pops up this week after being reminded Mr. Obama knew clearly what defines great leadership, per his 2006 speech: Americans, he declared, "are coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough. They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives."

Bingo, knowledge is not execution. Today's majority perceives no national purpose, convinced again we're heading in the wrong direction, thus so many are abandoning Obama as pick your metaphor lost in the wilderness, out of his depth, or lurching from crisis to crises replete with uninspiring, "wait-and-see" missteps in the face of crises.

Specific policies and compromises aside, wasn't Task One for the post-Bush Democrats amazingly obvious: defend good government, indeed the idea of government, link it hard to prosperity and purpose and celebrate federalism as a national treasure worth repairing? Rejoin, in short, the great, historical adventure towardsa "more perfect union." Okay, scratch perfection, but there must be something above Bush-Cheney's trashing majority rule, the Constitution, and America's reputation. Beyond the insane, community-busting tribalism of "never retreat, reload." Or politics reduced to merely one Big Lie, all opinion and no knowledge.

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Moral Politics, not Pragmatism

George Lakoff must be heard: "All politics is moral," mistakenly degraded to pragmatism, expediency, or quantity of passed bills, as if midterm triumphs follow gains notched on a stick: "All political leaders say to do what they propose because it is right. No political leaders say to do what they say because it is wrong. Morality is behind everything in politics -- and progressives and conservatives have different moral systems."

That means defending overall health care (not insurance reform) as a national moral imperative, not an efficiency, bill-paying exercise. "Life Panels" for all, would do just fine. Or linking the vitality of the earth, plants, and wildlife with human survival, at least humane survival. I challenge loyalists to establish Obama's declared, overriding, working "sense of purpose" without which our national mission is left ill-defined. Explain who Obama really is (beyond the cliche's, left and right), what principle or hill is he's willing to die on, what true risks taken, even the inexplicable blunder of thinking vaunted legislation doesn't need massive "sell-through," confusing popular acceptance with Congressional votes.

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For a decade, Robert S. Becker's rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, messaging and frameworks, now featured author at OpEdNews, Nation of Change and RSN. He appears regularly at Dissident Voice, with credits (more...)

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