The River

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Obama at the Helm
By Peter Beinart
The Washington Post


The danger is that Obama will fall prey to the malady that ruined Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter: self-righteousness. Elections are winner-take-all, but governing isn't. Candidates can denounce Washington, but presidents have to live there. If the lesson Obama draws from his outsider campaign is that he and his supporters are children of light while those who oppose them are cynics, he'll find it hard to compromise. Successful presidents know how to make half a loaf look like a big win, and presidents with messiah complexes don't do that very well. But if Obama can come across as idealistic without being moralistic, if he can keep his supporters' spirits high and their expectations in check, if he can fuse exuberance and discipline, he might just run the government pretty well.

Here it is again, that reflexive media bias. I'll leave aside again the assumption that Obama represents the left, and take this at face value anyway because it illustrates the media's default position on the right. From that position, leftist must "compromise" or they will be branded self-righteous, unreasonably idealistic, even suffering from messiah complexes. Has any mainstream columnist voiced such concerns about the governing ability of a party currently pursuing a self-righteous, unreasonably idealistic, and messianic war in the Middle East? Of course not because that is the extremely successful M.O of the Bushists.

It's a one-way warning from a one-way, ideologically blinded media. Change is fine, change is acceptable. Change is what we have had for the last seven years. But don't even think about change in the other direction, because that won't be change, it will be failure.


yep, you got it. Navigating a system of biases is next to impossible. So while there's plenty of evidence Obama is an advocate of sweeping change, and he's capable of using compromises to play a deep game, the collective will bog him, or any other change agent, down in them while they search for a way to destroy the change agent.

Engineering successful change in organizations is typically a function of two things: the external circumstances the org has to deal with, and how convincing the change agent is. It's the external realities which give Obama a chance, and which undermine the assumptions of the power structure as typified in the article.
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