In my 2009 post he’s just not that into us, I suggested two analogies for Obama’s original desire to win the Presidency…reposted below, with some additional comments at the end…
Here’s George Orwell, writing in 1940 about England and the English:
When you come back to England from any foreign country, you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling. The beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant. The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd. Then the vastness of England swallows you up, and you lose for a while your feeling that the whole nation has a single identifiable character. Are there really such things as nations? Are we not forty-six million individuals, all different? And the diversity of it, the chaos! The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pintables in the Soho pubs, the old maids biking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning – all these are not only fragments, but characteristic fragments, of the English scene. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?
But talk to foreigners, read foreign books or newspapers, and you are brought back to the same thought. Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillarboxes. It has a flavour of its own. Moreover it is continuous, it stretches in to the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature. What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantlepiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person.
And above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and the red pillarboxes have entered into your soul. Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side of the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you.
George Orwell was a socialist. He wanted to see radical transformation in his society. But in the above passage, he displays real affection for the English people and their culture.
Can anyone imagine Barack Obama writing something parallel to the above about America and the American people? To ask the question is to answer it. Clearly, Obama does not identify with America in the same sort of way that Orwell identified with England.
Why, then, did Obama wish to become our President?
Two analogies come to mind…
Analogy #1: We are a young woman in a 19th-century English novel. Our personality is a bit quirky and not to everyone’s taste; however, we are good-looking by most standards, and we carry an enormous dowry.
Obama is a young gentleman of scant means who finds us pretty strange and not really to his liking, but nevertheless has wooed us fervently, knowing that once we are married he will win the admiration of his friends–we’re considered a darned good catch–and will become quite wealthy. And he’s confident that in short order he will be able to use his charm and his authority over us to change our personality into something more to his liking.
Analogy #2: We are a large corporation with a fabled history but also with some current problems. Obama is our new CEO. He has a very low opinion of our executives, our workers, and our product line. His previous experience, ever since leaving business school, has been as a consultant, teaching theories about strategy and restructuring. He is very eager to prove these theories out in practice, and he is prepared to be quite ruthless in eliminating traditionally-successful parts of the business–and ways of doing things–in order to implement his strategic vision.
10/9/2012: In the linked article, Alana cites some of Obama’s difficulties over the last four years in dealing with those things every political leader must deal with, and asks, “If that’s the case, why is he running for reelection? The first time around, Obama could at least claim he was making the sacrifice because the country needed his brilliant leadership and phenomenal gifts so badly. But after four years, that’s far less believable. Honestly, it’s perplexing. Does Obama really want to be president, and if so, why?”
To apply the first of my above analogies: the “young gentleman of scant means” may have been an excellent seducer but a complete failure as a husband. That doesn’t mean he’s willing to give up the estate (although he’s bored by running it) and the social cachet that goes with it…and he’s still under the impression that he will be able to suppress his wife’s exuberant personality and turn her into something more to his liking. He’s still surprised and a little disoriented by the fact that this bride is not as submissive as the awe-struck servant girls he’s seduced in the past, but remains sure that that will change. To apply the second analogy, the young MBA-wielding corporate raider is finding actually running a company to be difficult and boring..his prior career has involved leaping from position to position without ever staying in any one place for long enough to have to buckle down to the details. But he’s convinced that the problems are mostly due to the long-term employees and holdover executives who fail to see and to fully implement the strategic brilliance of his paradigms, his buzzwords, his 4-box charts, and so on…and that things will be much smoother after these people are suppressed or replaced. And in any event, he has no interest in giving up the money, the corporate jet, the glory, and the sycophantic front-page articles in Bloomberg Business Week and similar publications.