Friday, July 24, 2009
The Audacity of Hope; Thoughts on Reclaiming The American Dream, by Barack Obama
I feel everyone should get to know their elected officials. Preferably we should get to know someone before we elect him, so I'm negligent there, but it was hard to get this book from the library until now.
I've heard and seen some nasty stuff about Barack Obama. There have been allegations that ranged from "he's a puppet of the Bilderberg Group" to "he's going to socialize us" to "he'll save America". I hate to get information from obviously skewed sources. I'd rather hear from the person himself/herself.
This book was written while Obama was a senator, though I don't know if he had ambitions for the presidency then. He briefly describes his campaign for an Illinois legislative seat, and later for the Senate seat in Congress, and his experiences as a junior congressman. He describes what a politician in Washington faces, how politics work, and tries to explain the difference between what people expect politicians to do and what they actually can do. He talks about how easily it is for politicians to become separated from the very people who elected them and how the combined influences of moneyed interests and yellow press media have reduced politicians to positive sound bite seekers, instead of advocates for justice and fairness in government. I'm afraid Obama merely confirmed my worst fears. Only people with a broad base of support, or a lot of money, or both, have access to Congress.
Obama talks about health care, racism, foreign policy, and the economy. He seems to see the points on both sides of each issue. He doesn't apologize for being a Democrat and he tells you outright that his outlook will side to the left right off the bat. He does seem to want consensus from both parties about these issues. He says he doesn't feel that bipartisan bickering helps in moving forward on the complicated problems our country faces. He even criticizes his own party on occasion, when they press their advantage because they can and not because it's for a good cause. Now that he's president, I think we can all see that just his hopes are not going to bring the two major parties together for consensus very often. I'd love to see another book from him after he is president as a companion to this book, and see if he says, "Boy was I ever naive on that one, huh?"
I came away from this book feeling that Obama is, or at least was in his Senate days, a reasonable person. Of course I disagree with him on certain hotbutton issues, which I won't get into here, but I honestly believe that he is the kind of person that wants to talk, that wants to debate his stand on it's merits, not on ideology. I am not going to rail on Obama for being a Democrat. If I criticize his policies on certain points, it will be because I think his approach is not the best one available.
For those who think he is the cat's pajamas, I think this book should take the praise down a notch. For those that hang him in effigy in their minds, it should quench the vitriol a little bit. Time will tell whether he is able to stick to his principles as President.