Obama Must Combine The Intellect Of MLK & The Fighting Spirit Of Ali

Today it is Martin Luther King’s day, and also almost the first year anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration. Despite what was undoubtedly a promising start, the President and the Democrats are in trouble both domestically and on the foreign policy front. If the President and his Democratic majority do not change course, the Democrats could face a set back in the 2010 elections.

President Obama is  pragmatic and, for this reason, seems to strive for compromise more than confrontation. This could be a great quality in normal times and in a sane political environment, but it is turning into a political liability for the President in our toxic political landscape. The GOP has been out of power since 2006, but what they do have, to parody the lame slogan of Nancy Reagan, is the power to “just say NO”. The Republicans do not want the Obama administration to succeed, they want him to fail even if it means a general failure of America.

Contrary to what some people are saying, the miscalculation of President Obama was to be too moderate by trying to find an elusive and largely mythical “Center” of America’s politics. By trying to reach this murky center of moderation the President has managed to antagonize his base on the left, without of course pleasing the far-right which has become the bulk of the GOP.

Even if President Obama is the incarnation of Dr. King’s dream, he has not fulfilled many promises of Martin Luther King’s vision for a better America and a better world. Stephen Dufrechou and Amy Beth Arkawy wrote two articles on News Junkie Post about the philosophy of King and what he would have to say if he was still alive today. Martin Luther King had two core guiding principles: the first one was social justice and the second one was non-violence & world peace. Needless to say, President Obama , at least for now, has failed on both aspects of King’s guiding principles. Under the Obama administration the rich are still getting richer, the middle class is fading fast and the poor are becoming destitute. Under the Obama administration, the US military involvement overseas has increased to unprecedented level.

If the struggle of Martin Luther King (see mug shot of his arrest in Alabama in 1956) made the election of President Obama possible, the President has not,so far, returned the favor by honoring the teaching of the civil rights leader. I truly think that in order to succeed, the President must do a substantial “house cleaning” within his administration. What was he thinking when he kept Robert Gates at the Pentagon and Ben Bernanke at the Fed? What was he thinking when he nominated one of Wall Street’s golden boys/ “master-of-the-universe” to head the Treasury?

Both King and Ali had some fighting spirit in spade. King fought with his words and commanding convictions on behalf of others, and he was killed for it. Ali fought with his fists, but was also a fighter for social change in America. The boxer’s most famous line is probably “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, and it is exactly the fighting spirit that President Obama must display between now and 2012 for his own political survival. Time is running out, and if President Obama doesn’t change course substantialy he could be just a transitional President as opposed to the transformational one Americans elected in 2008.

Editor’s Note: Please follow Gilbert Mercier on Twitter, and visit this author’s archive on News Junkie Post.


One Response to Obama Must Combine The Intellect Of MLK & The Fighting Spirit Of Ali

  1. Stephen Dufrechou January 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    It’s great that you brought up “pragmatism” in this article, Gilbert!

    Obama’s pragmatism is precisely what makes him NOT the “savior” so many liberals believed him to be… “pragmatism” is nothing but a bankrupt philosophy, as it is, anyway…

    To get a foothold in reality, any decent government needs to channel ethical grounds that rely on universals–not rely on positions, which fail to consider universals (like pragmatism categorically does). Thus, pragmatism won’t result in any genuine progress, ever.

    Pragmatism is not so much a measure of Truth, “capital T”, which can affirm universal ethics, but is rather a means of determining “value-judgment”, only….

    Pragmatists determine “value”, then–and never “Truth”…. They do this by asking: “What are the basic consequences for our actions in accepting a given idea to be true?”…

    How, in other words, will accepting a proposition as valid effect the course of relations with ourselves, others, and the external world?

    The problem, here, should be obvious; a logical step is missing. And this leaves us will a host of unanswered questions about how pragmatists “think”. For instance:

    (1) What determines the “capital T” Truthfulness of the pragmatist’s own evaluation of the “basic consequences” of his actions?… (2) What if the very “consequences” arrived at are seen as negative from a different perspective?… (3) What if a different perspective produces different “basic consequences”, ones that were not seen by the initial pragmatist’s view?… The problems with pragmatism are endless…. That’s why we should call it a bankrupt philosophy….

    I think it’s crucial to note a reason why “pragmatism” culturally took root so firmly early in the U. S…. This was because of the “multi-cultural” nature of its immigrant society; with so many different ideas about life–how can a society “democratically” make decisions? How is a majority consensus possible? Pragmatism was the answer…

    But the dirty secret behind American pragmatism was–and still is–is that the deciding factor on who formulates the “basic consequences”, and the “value-judgments” of those consequences, is always the State…. And the State always decides these matters based on its need to perpetuate its own power and ideology–which are often in direct opposition to the population’s best interests.

    In the words of U. S. Justice John Jay: “Those who own the country ought to govern it…” Or more specifically, the economic elites should govern…. And govern they do, in their monetary and political interests–which are very much permanently tied.

    Thus, Obama’s “pragmatism”, we might say, is nothing but a thin veil for his favoring the state ideology over the general welfare of the population.

    As MLK once said, “the time is always ripe to do right.” But pragmamists, like Obama, simply don’t know “how to think” how to do right…. They are, philosophically speaking, rather useless… So Gilbert, here, is dead-right; either Obama drops the pragmatism, or he’s going to see many former supporters drop their votes for him in 2012.

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