And so the question is: Why do so many liberals imagine that Obama is some sort of naive simpleton who thinks Republicans are his friends? Obama has proven himself to be a political mastermind, yet these people insist upon lecturing Obama about how wrong he is for trusting these guys. I find that utterly mind-boggling. Which Barack Obama were they watching last year? Seriously, the man totally out-skunked everyone in ways that these very same liberals said couldn't work, and proved that you could fight Republicans without getting bloody.
And so, what, do they think he just stumbled into this? He lucked his way past the Clintons? Could they truly believe that his blackness was such an over-riding factor that his complete lack of political skills wasn't a big deterrent? He beat the fucking Clintons! The Clintons! And not due to any sort of inside fix or blunder on their part. He just completely out-maneuvered them from the start and made almost no mistakes along the way. No front-runner stumbles or egregious rookie faux pas. And he came out of each of these battles looking better than ever.
Nice Guys Finish First
So how is it that these people imagine that Obama needs their advice about the wicked Republicans? I mean, even if Obama was asleep throughout the 90's and 00's, he'd still remember how they treated him, right? And I think there are two answers for this: The Nice Guy Fallacy and their own naiveté.
And the problem many people have with Obama is that he's part of a new wave of pragmatic nice guys, or selfish niceness. Because it pays to be nice. Not only is it good karma, but you get further in life if you treat others well and do the right thing. And the only problem with it is when bullies assume you're an easy mark and try to take advantage of you. But that's where the pragmatism comes in. Because Obama doesn't have to be nice. It's a choice. And if necessary, he can play rough, too. And it's easier for him, because the bullies rarely expect it from such a nice guy, so he can thump them upside the head and move back to being nice before they even know what hit them.
And I suspect that a lot of Obama's progressive critics just don't understand that. And the reason for that is that, well, these people really aren't into the concept of guile. They wear their hearts, brains, and plans on their sleeves, and lack the ability to strategize beyond "I'm going to keep pushing straight ahead until I get what I want." And they just don't understand why that might not be the best strategy, or why it often seems to backfire. It's not that they're dumb, but merely that the part of their brain that handles deception is underdeveloped. They're just sooooo fucking sincere. And yes, I fit into the Pragmatic Nice Guy category.
That's also why they're such easy prey for online trolls. These guileless progressives truly want the trolls to be sincere, because it sets-up such a straight-forward dynamic for them. And even when you explain to them that they're debating a fake or parody, they often still insist on debating on the off-chance that it's real.
The Kumbaya President
And so they hear Obama talking about being bipartisan and nice, and all they can imagine is that he really means it. Ergo, he hasn't been paying attention and must be naive. And that ties into the second problem: They really don't understand strategy or why it's necessary. For them, politics is the thing that gets in the way of good policy; especially now that we control the Whitehouse and Congress. They just don't see the need for political positioning.
But of course, they're wrong. Not only is positioning necessary for beating Republicans, it's a requirement of democracy. Because as I said yesterday, democracy isn't another term for "short-term dictatorship" and victory doesn't give you the right to impose your policies upon the country; even if they're the right policies. Democracy means giving voice to the people and if the people don't want a policy, you shouldn't give it to them; even if it's in their best interests.
And so it's important to position yourself properly. It's necessary to do a little kabuki to pass good policies. And yes, it's necessary to listen to your political opponents, even if they're obstructionists who want to destroy you. Not only is listening to the minority a requirement of democracy, but it's also good politics. Sure, Republicans won't support Obama's stimulus bill. But by listening to their demands and making some concessions, we have denied them an effective platform from which to oppose it. They can bitch, but fewer will listen.
And the best part about it is that it makes Obama look like an effective leader who made a legitimate attempt to reach out to his opponents. And that's just a continuation of the pragmatic nice guy politics that helped give him the sweeping victory that his progressive critics didn't think possible. People don't just want good policies. They want good vibes. It looks like Obama's got a good shot at getting us both.