07 November 2008

Pundits Ahoy

I decided that I am the poor man’s Robert Fulghum. He has a blog too. You can visit it at: http://www.robertfulghum.com/ but my point is that his squib at the top is sort of like mine. I expect, though, that being more wry and shrewd and published (and the beard is way cool too) he gets more traffic than me. My sprawling, ranting, scenery chewing stuff is decidedly less popular. So you all are either the most select of minds or the most bizarre. I suspect both are true to some extent.

Before I forget, and head back into the quirky world of my own demented psyche, some thoughts on the election.

- Symbolism won. Every now and then we elect a president because of his (still only ‘his’ lamentably) symbolic power. Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John Kennedy all represented what the nation wanted to be. Obama won in part because we saw the American future in him as much as a competent and capable leader. Generally, we elect symbols when we need to choose the future more than preserve the present or past. It will be rare.

- His being black is part of that symbolism of course. Someone in his distinct position as a biracial person, not belonging to either white or black cultures entirely, was always in a better position to do this. Just as Nixon being Republican could more likely open the door to China than Johnson. “The stone rejected by the builder,” says a psalm, “becomes the headstone of the corner.” Paradox is part of genuine symbolism. Obama was a paradoxical candidate.

- Speaking of paradox, he exploited the system even as he rejected it. His campaign was acutely aware of electoral realities, and leveraged that knowledge even as he criticized the system that created them and maintained them. Call it shrewd or Machiavellian, or even hypocritical, it makes perfect sense as well.

- Look out for a paradoxical president, someone whose actions are not perfectly consistent or predictable, the very antithesis of our current president. His challenge will be to create a vision and persona in which contrary and conflicting actions can be seen as part of a larger plan or vision.

In other words, he needs to be as creative as Jefferson, as shrewd as Lincoln, as sure as Wilson, as confident as FDR and as genuine as Ford. Mighty tall order, which is what symbolic people have to shoulder. It’s going to be an interesting four years, for sure.

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