Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sage Analysis and Advice

In 1998, I was priviledged to be a memeber of the first class of Harvard University's Summer Leadership Institute. Suffice it to say it was a significant event in my life and career as a pastor.

Sitting in sessions and having the opportunity to dialogue afterward with the likes of Cornell West, Evelyn Higgenbotham, along with faculty from the Divinity School, schools of business and government, among others was incredible. The opportunity to interact with (at that time) 40 pastors and community leaders from across the country was exhilirating.

One of the most exciting presenters was a young man named Lawrence Bobo. Bobo is an American Academy of Arts and Sciences scholar and is a sociologist in the Department of African-American Studies, at Harvard. His is an interesting take on the current appearant travails of the Obama presidency and the countrywide hysteria among Republicans and conservatives:

"President Barack Obama is being pilloried from all sides. The far left doesn’t understand why corporate America and Wall Street bankers have not yet been rendered penniless by the government. What remains of the so-called Clinton left can’t understand why anyone would have a civil conversation with a Republican. The independents and a dwindling number of thinking Republicans hear the continuous roar of criticism and are beginning to assume that, heck, there sure is a lot of smoke; therefore, there must be a fire..."

"If Obama has made a mistake it has been, to borrow the title of writer Walter Mosley’s recent book, “the right mistake.” In general, Obama’s first months sought to fashion public policies the value of which all the American people can see and understand. Specifically with regard to the recent massive health care reform effort, he tried to keep Republicans in the tent to fashion a plan that Americans across the political spectrum can embrace. If this effort is failing, it is not because it was misguided or improper to make the attempt..."

"The deeper charge is that political naiveté and weakness are the real dilemmas now confronting Obama’s health care reform effort. Without attempting to parse every aspect of the evolving legislation, let me say that the real problem here is much simpler. It involves a noxious combination of a failed media, political extremists on the right and a seemingly natural inclination for vicious internal fighting on the left. The end result is stagnation at a moment when we as a nation can least afford it..."

"The absurd and alarmist claims made by critics of the Obama health care reform plans were too long treated as serious charges. Moreover, the readiness to transmit to the world the image of Obama with Hitler’s mustache and to seriously treat claims that he is a “socialist,” or now, according to the bigot Rush Limbaugh, a “fascist,” border on the criminally reckless..."

"[As to the 'right-wing extremists']These people lost a free and fair election. Obama is right to sense that their hold on American politics will continue to diminish. Part of the “right mistake” here is for Obama to continue to hold out the hope and possibility of bipartisanship in order to reveal just how irrational, counterproductive, extreme and arguably dangerous many of the forces now driving the Republican Party have become."

And his recommendation going forward? In part he's beginning to say what a number of people are saying...

"The moment for letting others carry the message is behind us. The president must take ownership of this issue and of the direction in which he wants this discussion to head."

"As for Obama’s critics on the left, it may well be the case that the Republican Party is so thoroughly in the grip of extremists that “deal making” is impossible."

Read the rest of Dr. Bobo's essay here.

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