Friday, May 04, 2007

Speaking of Problem-Solving

There are three things that Democratic political candidates tend to do when talking with constituents: they display an impressive grasp of the minutiae of their constituents’ problems, particularly money problems; they rouse indignation by explaining how those problems are caused by powerful groups getting rich on the backs of ordinary people; and they present well-worked-out policy proposals that, if passed, would solve the problems and put the powerful groups in their place. Obama seldom does any of these things. He tends to underplay his knowledge, acting less informed than he is. He rarely accuses, preferring to talk about problems in the passive voice, as things that are amiss with us rather than as wrongs that have been perpetrated by them. And the solutions he offers generally sound small and local rather than deep-reaching and systemic.


Obama’s detachment, his calm, in such small venues, is less professorial than medical—like that of a doctor who, by listening to a patient’s story without emotional reaction, reassures the patient that the symptoms are familiar to him. It is also doctorly in the sense that Obama thinks about the body politic as a whole thing. If you are presenting a problem as something that they have perpetrated on us, then whipping up outrage is natural enough; but if you take unity seriously, as Obama does, then outrage does not make sense, any more than it would make sense for a doctor to express outrage that a patient’s kidney is causing pain in his back.
It has always seemed to Pretty Lady that the fundamental problem of politics is, well, politics. That is, the pitting of one side against another in an illusory dichotomy which requires that somebody lose in order for somebody else to win, regardless of the fact that everyone's perspectives contain both flaws and merit. It is this illusory dichotomy which leads to oversimplication of issues, distortions, outright lies, and vulgar rants of every flavor.

If, as the surgeon's experience suggests, the solutions to any problem are inherent in the problem, it seems to Pretty Lady that the best way to solve these problems is to calm down, ask questions, and listen to the answers. No matter whether the people answering the questions are Democrats, Republicans, or fringe-element nutcases. Propounding Forceful Solutions before a person has done this would then seem to be counterproductive; wholesale name-calling, even more so.


The Aardvark said...

The ability to pigeonhole a set of behaviors and responses as "politics" is as egregious as the clueless who separate their faith into a cubby called "religion", and do not allow it to illuminate the rest of their lives.

If elected, I promise to never do that.

...what if I promise not to run at all?

k said...

Ahhhh. Thank you for that one.

Counterproductive. Yes.