Struggling for Obama's Soul


Now that we know Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States, we can turn to the next critical question of national leadership: In this historic moment, how bold will President Obama be?

It was Candidate Obama who introduced the theme of change to the 2008 campaign, and it proved so powerful among voters that the other leading candidates quickly adopted it. It’s a cliché for candidates to run against the status quo in Washington, no matter how long they’ve been there. But in 2008, Obama seems to grasp that “change” has a much deeper meaning.

The 21st century is presenting us with new problems that politics as usual can not solve. Pollution, once local and fixable, is permanently damaging the planet’s life-support systems. The world is running out of affordable oil at the same time energy demand is skyrocketing. Because nations don’t yet know how to lift their people out of poverty without fossil fuels, economic development has become a zero-sum game that leads to resource wars. And speaking of wars, the most powerful military force in history has found again that it cannot be assured of winning them, even against enemies with relatively primitive weapons.

Candidate Obama was specific about what he intends to do on many of these issues. His campaign posted positions on the economy, education, energy, ethics, foreign policy, health care, homeland security, the war in Iraq, taxes, veterans, civil rights, national defense, social security and issues of particular concern to women, to name just a few of the planks in his platform. The campaign promised that President Obama would use “innovative approaches to challenge the status quo and get results” on solving “seemingly intractable problems”.

Those seemingly intractable problems aren’t for the faint of heart, or the politically cautious, or for elected leaders who allow themselves to be shackled by their parties. We can expect a struggle for Barack Obama’s soul between those who believe he must be a courageous, charismatic and transformative leader of epochal stature and those who believe he must govern from the center. Continued...