Commentary Magazine


Re: Re: Disenchanted, Are We?

Abe and Peter, there are two levels of interest here. One is the bemusement that some of us feel as to those who passionately hop from one position to the next, from adoration to villification of figures and political stances, with not much tolerance for those who adhere to views that they themselves embraced not so long ago.  Their extremism is only matched by their political amnesia.

On a separate level, one sympathizes with a broader group of observers and voters who supported the President-elect’s candidacy based on the notion that he believed what he said on a range of issues. Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. I can only imagine what John McCain supporters would have said if he had been elected and then promptly appointed as Defense Secretary or Secretary of State Chuck Hagel, who had repeatedly vowed an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Or, if after vowing to appoint originalist judges, he picked Cass Sunstein for a Supreme Court vacancy. They would be justifiably very upset that they’d been conned. (It remains to be seen whether Obama’s appointments and policy decisions will depart as radically as these hypotheticals and to the degree feared by his Left-leaning fans.)

In this broader group of supporters one must include those who perceived Barack Obama as a wise and thoughtful person who would attract top talent on their merits. For example, the invariably interesting Megan McArdle  is indignant. The rumor that Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee may be thrown overboard for gender politics isn’t sitting well with her. She writes:  “Needless to say, given that Obama’s sterling choice of highest-caliber economic advisors was one of my main reason for supporting him, my regret is mounting faster than ever.” (Watch out, Megan, if he really is serious about nationalizing health care, bailing out Detroit and giving Big Labor its card check bill.)

So the perpetually outraged may be joined by the justifiably outraged. President-elect Obama has promised to bring us all together and so far he is.

Candidate Obama, of course, played into the hopes and aspirations of voters holding contradictory views and conflicting interests by cultivating vagueness to a high art and avoiding firm stances. As a result there are large numbers of voters convinced based on only a hunch that they have the Presdient-elect figured out. Many of them are wrong. In short, the perpetually aggrieved will have a never-ending supply of reinforcements from the ranks of conned, confused and mislead Obama supporters. At some point, the circles can’t be squared. Or to borrow a phrase, the chickens come home to roost.