It seems that the dominant topic in progressive circles this week is Obama's puzzling (and worrisome) restraint in the face of the usual Republican tactics of emotionally-laden and fundamentally dishonest propaganda and smears directed against him.
That has certainly been the focus of the discussion lately on my own website, www.NoneSoBlind.org.
The following statement was born as a comment I wrote on a thread on a thread there entitled Obama's Restraint is Deliberate: Observations Regarding Olbermann's Interview of Barack Obama.
NoneSoBlind reader Susanne writes:
I understand wishing Obama would respond with more emotion and force to the Republican attacks but that isn’t who he is or what he wants for the country. I think we have a choice to make about the kind of people we want to be. Obama is betting on us ; on our ability to rise above this crap and say, “Enough, this isn’t the way we want to run our elections, Our problems are too serious...
As much as I'd like to be able to agree with this, I can't see how to.
Yes, we should be the kind of people who rise above the crap the Republicans use to win elections, but there are two things that need to be said.
First of all, Americans have demonstrated that we are, overall, the kind of people who DO NOT rise above this crap, but rather that we hand power to those who are skilled at manipulating us with this crap. Any candidate serious about winning cannot SIMPLY IGNORE that reality.
But more important, the leader we need should not MERELY ask us to rise above this crap but should also use the day-to-day examples of this pernicious propaganda as teachable moments: part of his job is awaken Americans to the reality that this stuff IS crap, and poisonous stuff as well; that it is dishonest and debasing, and that this kind of political discourse is a vital PART OF OUR ALL OUR OTHER PROBLEMS.
So yes, our problems are indeed serious. But it is a mistake to draw a distinction between "our nation's problems" and this deceptive and debasing form of political speech, this utter disregard of truth in the ruthless quest for power.
Our problems include a disastrous war, a bubble burst economy, a plutocratic political system, the erosion of the rule of law, climate change and many other "issues."
But our problems also include our descent into being a country ruled by primitive and propagandistic communications, where lies wield more power than the truth, where Americans are taught to substitute fantasy for any real grasp of reality, where we are made incapable as a body politic to have serious deliberations together about ANY of our other problems and their solutions.
So when we talk about what Obama "wants for this country," we should include the task of combatting this dishonest and primitive kind of political warfare that is being waged against him.
In calling for Obama to combat these lies and distortions, this discourse that appeals to Americans' baser and more primitive elements, I am not calling for him to sink to the same level as these Bushite McCainiacs. I'm talking about his responding FORCEFULLY WITH THE TRUTH.