In the past week I have been very critical of Barack’s so-called rush to the center. I have been as guilty as others of charging him with changing positions and retreating from (my) cherished views. However a look at his career shows that many of the relatively conservative positions he has taken lately are well embedded in his political and social history. He has never been an absolutist on abortion, capital punishment or even gun control.
I was going to title this piece something like, “Projecting on a not so blank screen,” but someone beat me to it — Barack Obama!! In his book, “The Audacity of Hope” he wrote, long ago, “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.”
Like infatuated teenagers, many of us have projected our philosophies or political views on him without looking at him closely, readily dismissing the significance here and there of positions with which we may disagree. When lovers break up they may castigate themselves, saying, “I knew that” or “I should have known.” But we don’t have that luxury. We have to rethink what it is we are looking for. We have to rediscover what “change” means.
Change is not merely substituting one set of positions for another but redefining how politics is played. If we look closely at the positions for which we have been chastising Obama we will discover that his positions are not black or white but nuanced. Nuance is something new on the political scene. If we look closely we will also see that this candidate not only thinks for himself, but actually listens to others.
A dramatic example is his response to criticism of his position on FISA. First of all, the campaign to get him to change his position began on his own website, but he even responded to the critics, setting forth his nuanced position and invited further discussion of the issue.
This is real change. Unlike the current occupant of the White House, who is shielded from dissenting opinion, Obama invites the discussion and engages his critics.
This what real change is about — not bullets and sound bites. It may be confusing at first to support a candidate with whom we may not always agree and whose opinions are nuanced and detailed. But this is the beginning of a great adventure. The election of a President who can think, does think, listens, and engages. Such a candidate may appear to change his mind from time to time, but I suggest that over time we will discover that a thread of continuity runs through his thought, and then when a new or changed idea must be acknowleged it is not merely grafted on but woven into the very structure and body of the man and his campaign.
So it is necessary that we continue to scrutinize him, and to holler when we think he has strayed, but we also owe it to ourselves and the nation to put these matters into perspective and continue this great adventure.