Friday, January 30, 2009

Loathing and Adoration

I have been disappointed by some conservatives that have been quick to see evil in absolutely everything that President Obama and his administration do. This attitude is both absurd and wrong.

But it is no more illogical and off kilter than emoting adulation and loyalty to the point of believing that everything the president and his administration do is virtuous. These two attitudes are opposite sides of the same coin. Regardless of who sits in the White House, these attitudes are ultimately misguided and destructive. This applies to every elected office at any level in our society.

The social contract in a democratic society requires that when a leader is fairly elected, we all accept and regard that person as the legitimate leader. The mature way of regarding any such leader is to cheer actions that comport with our understanding of good government and to condemn actions that we believe go against such principles — to encourage the former and discourage the latter. This should be true regardless of underlying ideology or who we voted for.

Unqualified acceptance of a leader’s actions ultimately leads us to embrace actions that we would otherwise reject outright. Adding adoration to this injudicious approval amplifies this by orders of magnitude.

The other side of the coin is just as bad. Reactive rejection of a leader’s actions leads us to forego opportunities. We end up cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Adding hatred and loathing to this blind disapproval poisons the well of compromise upon which democratic societies rely to survive.

We have seen ample evidence of both of these extremes in the first 10 days of the Obama presidency, but that is nothing new. We saw both extremes on regular display during previous presidencies, as well. Historic precedent is hardly a reason to accept or embrace such insidious thought patterns.

A mature approach to political leadership will benefit all of us.

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