In my report from the “Listening to America” meeting, I called the whole idea silly. Let me explain.
A serious presidential contender, several weeks before the election, should say “America, listen! I did my homework, and I am ready to lead. Here is a 30-second synopsis of my position on (healthcare, Iraq, taxes, education, immigration — fill in the blank), and following will be a 30-minute detailed explanation of what exactly I plan to do and why. Please scrutinize my position and tell me what is wrong with it, so that together we can make it better. Let us work on one issue every week before the election.” The logic behind this approach is that it takes lengthy mundane work of teams of experts in order to arrive with a workable solution. The same, defining who is an expert is subjective. Behind every failed venture were teams of misguided people calling themselves experts. Just as a child can see that the emperor has no clothes, so an average person with even a little common sense can detect the flaws in lofty-sounding political concepts prepared by “experts.”
Asking for new ideas last month, so late before the election, a presidential candidate seems out of touch, like someone who does not know what he wants to do when elected. Furthermore, all of the ideas are already posted somewhere on the internet anyway. Have not Obama’s advisors collected and analyzed them by now? What are the odds that a new, brilliant insight will surface in a “Listening to America” meeting and float to the top? Obama might as well buy a lottery ticket.
The pitfall of the “Listening to America” concept is that it disregards the possibility that, when it comes to pivotal political issues, the views of regular Americans could simply be wrong. Thus, when listening to America, Obama is listening to Americans who elected the current President twice, supported the war in Iraq, and effectively blocked any attempts to reform education, health care, or immigration.
Obama claims that change is needed in Washington. But, what if politicians in Washington do more or less what Americans want them to do, but Americans do not like the outcome of what they asked for? After all, we have one of the best if not the best democracy in the world. Looked at from that perspective, Americans are the ones that need to change. On issues such as immigration and health care, which I have spent some time analyzing, it is obvious to me that the problem is not in Washington, but in the misguided understanding that Americans have of these issues. Unless the majority of Americans change their views, nothing can be done to resolve our immigration crisis or better our health care system.
In reply to my ‘spinning the wheels’ comment, the organizer of the meeting explained to me that she realized that along with the concept of “Listening to America,” there is also an attempt to bind together Obama supporters. In other words, working up an emotional momentum that would take Obama to the White House. And that means giving up on changing America. It means shifting the campaign from discussing the issues to creating irrational expectations of Obama’s presidency. Who knows, perhaps he can even fly. Most importantly, it means that Obama does not have the guts to tell his fellow citizens that they are wrong on some issues. It means returning to politics as usual.
A version of this text was published by Huffington Post