The Human Rorshach Test
This is not an original idea, as I have heard Thom Hartmann refer to Barack Obama as a human Rorschach test, but as a Social Psychologist who has been following the saga of Barack Obama, I would like to explicate on this idea.
I have never heard any person be described so variously and differently than Barack Obama. Surely, if he had been a plumber from Cleveland, a taxi cab driver from Chicago, or a sanitary worker from Seattle, the public would not be so intrigued by the question of who this person is and what his character is. Even if he were still a Senator, there would not be so much obsession over him. But the fact that he is President makes people scrutinze him, and project their hopes and fears onto him, like nobody else. Furthermore, the fact that he is "the first Black President" makes people do so all the more, in my opinion.
There are basically 3 different Barack Obamas that I have been exposed to, including 2 fictional ones and the real one:
1. There is the muslim Kenyan communist fictitious Barack Obama who is on a secret mission to destroy the United States, that a significant portion of conservative America believes in. That is the one that Randi Rhodes refers to as the Barack Obama who was manufactured by the right-wing media pundits and crackpots such as Donald Trump. He has become a projection of all "the angry white conservative man's" most paranoid fears;
2. There is the equally fictional in my opinion, turncoat Democrat who is a secret Bluedog Democrat or even a secret Republican, who promised us all kinds of progressive hope and change in order to get our vote in 2008, then promptly showed his true proclivities once he was free to be himself and boss everybody else around, as President. Something apparently happened to his magic progressive wand on the way to the White House. This is the Barack Obama that I keep encountering among disgruntled fellow progressives, many of whom were never in favor of Obama in the first place, and many of whom are inveterate pessimists. They find any continuation of the bad policies of prior administrations, no matter how little choice Obama has in the matter, to be matters of Obama's choice and signs of his rotten, or worse, character;
3. Finally, there is the real Barack Obama, at least in my opinion and apparently in the opinion of most knowledgeable voters. This is the Barack Obama who has faced stiff opposition like no President ever before has faced, yet accomplished much in spite of that. The Barack Obama that I see believes in compromise and working together, even with his opponents. He probably caves in too much to the right and may compromise with people who refuse to budge in their positions, but his heart seems to be in the right place. He has certainly continued some policies that I and others disagree with, but none of us are in his position, and don't know what sort of pressures and constraints have been placed upon him, especially as the "Jackie Robinson" of politics. He may be a moderate in many areas, but he certainly understands that "trickle down economics" does not work, and has proposed streamlining the military while cutting military spending, and raising taxes on the wealthy, which are exactly the sort of progressive things he needs to do. Meanwhile, he has given us a form of health care insurance reform, even if it's not the type of reform we will ultimately need. At least he is making changes in the proper direction, even if they are only incremental. He is a brilliant man who worked his way up from humble beginnings and a politically disadvantaged background as a "black" man, an iconic symbol of progress and a great speaker. For what he has gone through and what he has accomplished, when it's all over and done, his likeness should probably be on the side of Mount Rushmore next to Lincoln's. That is the Barack Obama that I, and I think a great many fellow Americans, see -- the Barack Obama that we re-elected on Tuesday.
However, conservatives will continue to assail him and try to turn him into some sort of ridiculous caricature of who he really is, and disaffected progressives who aren't patient enough to wait for the revolutionary changes they seek, and which could very well take place in the coming years, will continue to lump him together with all other politicians, except to label Obama as even worse because he promised to be something better. Well, as far as I am concerned, he is something better. However, there is only so much a President can do, especially without the support of the public. We need to keep pushing him to do more, to be more progressive. We must remember that a great deal of power has been delegated, without the consent of the people, to the corporatocracy of America and the world. Therefore, any President who wishes to act progressively, occupies a very uncomfortable position, with the power of the corporatocracy on one side, and the reading of the will of the people, on the other. What was Obama to think when progressives stayed home in 2010 and allowed a bunch of right-wing teabagger nutjobs to be elected to Congress? How is one to fight the corporatocracy in the face of such a passive-agressive, obstructionist assault? We need to elect a better Congress -- a more progressive one -- for our President, whomever he or she may be, to work with before we can expect better results. Otherwise, Obama will continue to be a human Rorshach test who looks like 3 completely different people, depending upon the angle from which one views him.
Fortunately, we made some steps in the direction of giving Obama a better Congress to work with, on Tuesday. However, the sad fact is that the majority of representatives are still Republican, and thus, we cannot expect much other than continued obstruction of anything progressive that Obama might try to do, and continued lousy legislation from the House of Representatives over the next 2 years. Our next chance to rectify that situation will be the midterm elections in 2014.
Although it may be too much to expect, let us hope that the House of Representatives over the next 2 years will start listening to the will of most Americans, and also, show a spirit of compromise. They cannot be worse than they were these past 2 years.