Our President Obama is unique in our historic line of American presidents and his trumpeted 1/4th African Negro genotype is the least of it. First, is he really our first black president? George Zimmerman we are told, is a ‘white-Hispanic’ as result of his white dad marrying a Peruvian. Fifty percent Hispanic only gets George a hyphen while a measly 25 percent gets the Prez full blackness. Those black genes are powerful! At least, politically. But as stated, that’s the least of our leader’s uniqueness.
As history comes to be written, his genes will give way to the manner in which he has conducted his Presidency, as it should. As President, Barack Obama has created a new paradigm, built upon our communication age technology. For one thing, he is our first President that seems to live on the road, out of a suitcase or out of Air Force One, in his case. He’s annoying to some for his unending rounds of golf and his regular family vacations but witnesses will swear that he also regularly visits the White House and keeps most of his stuff there. This is what we see and hear.
That is the truth, so far as it goes. It doesn’t go very far. President Reagan, a former actor, was called “the Great Communicator” for a reason. He was the Republican heir in that, of President Franklin Roosevelt, the Democrat who inherited the Great Depression and took us into WWII. Some 56 million dead may have been a fair price for exiting the Great Depression; I’ll leave that to you. President Roosevelt, when his programs stalled, went to the people; he had radio available and he could speak. We weren’t supposed to notice his wheel chair and we mostly didn’t, just as with President Obama’s truckload of teleprompters when he avails himself of Roosevelt’s tactics.
Our President avails himself of Roosevelts’ tactics, which were occasional, on what seems like a 24/7 basis. He is President Roosevelt and/or Reagan, on steroids. His predecessors dealt with Congress, going to the people when it seemed necessary. President Obama is the first to seem to deal with the people, going to Congress when necessary. He campaigned around the country and won; he is still campaigning. A Presidential speech was a big deal before President Obama; now it seems as daily as the newspapers.
Past presidents, once elected, became Presidential and tried to act as leaders of the country, at least in public. Political partisanship was left for back rooms and assistants; The Prez was above that. President Obama revels in it; attacking Republicans at every opportunity plus a few he creates himself. This has never, so far as I can tell, been done before to this extent, by any president of this country. And if the Prez hasn’t been to your town, it must lack an airport.
All this is tied together by computer and internet technology unavailable to President Obama’s predecessors. Incorporated into it, shaping it and modifying it as he goes, are internet and telephone polls. The Prez has reactions to his speeches shortly after they’re given; his pitch is modified and re-presented immediately. He is not a shaper and negotiator of policy as have been presidents before him, so much as he is the pitchman on the road, feeding back what he encounters to the movers and shapers at home, whose product he sells to the public.
This strategy provides him unique strengths: He marshals the media exposure of a campaign to his purpose and gets the daily demonization of his opposition as a dividend. His words and acts flood the news at a scale unimagined by any before him. And this carries some unique attachments.
President Obama has at his convenience, ignored the petty details of our ‘obsolete’ Constitution, killed people on his say-so and pursued (largely unsuccessful) foreign wars without a peep from the citizens. He picks and chooses the portions of U.S. law he enforces, whether the subject is the U.S. border or the implementation of health care law. He continues spending money that is unavailable and so must be borrowed and he sends the U.S. military anywhere he pleases to do whatever he wants whether Congress has approved it or not. Arguably, no previous American President has wielded such power but perhaps, Lincoln. And the public and the courts are both quiescent.
A further feature of this development, is the personalization of the Presidency; we are less presented with PRESIDENT Obama, than with President OBAMA. The man (not quite yet a god) may be becoming more important than the office. The American media and academia seem ready for that, from my jaundiced perspective. Risible reaction to past presidents was a given; today, mere disagreement with the Obamafolk may bring down the full force of the Feds, as Louisiana is feeling for daring to legitimize school vouchers for poor kids in poor schools and Texas is receiving over voter ID laws.
So we have a new model President: Always on the go, always selling, always bulling his opponents, always punishing any who disagree and perpetually annoying an increasing numbers of people, as his ratings decline has illustrated. The Prez (or somebody) deserves credit for creativity, a new model for American governance doesn’t come up often. When one does come up, only time can tell us whether it will last. I’ll give odds against this one.