Monday, November 10, 2008

How much?

Hilzoy asks an interesting question:

I've been mulling over the election, and it occurred to me that liberal blogs are about to be faced with an interesting question, namely: how much should we trust Barack Obama?

What she means of course is, how much should we shill for Barack Obama? Because as bloggers we consider not only whether to trust someone, but to what extent we should put our credibility (such as it is) on the line to defend someone else. Now if I were an ungenerous right-wing blogger, I'd be inclined to think that what Hilzoy is trying to do is set expectations for liberal bloggers to make all sorts of defenses for Obama that they wouldn't make for Bush in similar situations, while still trying to argue that they are maintaining something approaching objectivity and a lack of bias. But I'm not an ungenerous right-wing blogger, and that isn't what Hilzoy is trying to do. Rather she's genuinely is wondering how much leeway we should grant someone to meet the expectations they set for themselves to us, and at what point do we begin to call them out for failing those expectations? How much slack do we cut them?

Which is something I've sort of been pondering, though from a different angle. For the last year, we have shamelessly promoted Barack Obama first as the democratic nominee for President, and then as President. That was because we believe that Obama is the best man to lead America in the direction that we already believe it should go. But as you might imagine, writing in support or defense of a candidate entails (perhaps necessitates) a somewhat less critical eye. We accept that what they say is what they mean (unless evidence clearly dictates to the contrary) and defend what they say from others, in the hopes that this will persuade others to vote for our preferred candidate.

Now, there is no one to sell Obama to. And our previous advocacy of a candidate runs headlong into our now year four-years-and-running long opposition to much of what our government was doing. Someone who is not inclined to be charitable towards us would assume that we will continue with the former, and discontinue the latter.

I'm here to assure you that this most certainly will not be the case here. Just as the election has now ended, so too has our advocacy for one candidate over another.

Now don't get me wrong; all three of us advocated, donated and voted for Obama because we sincerely believe that his stance on the issues is closest to our own, and because he has demonstrated the type of character necessary to meet important goals in difficult times. He is not now suddenly our opposition because he embodies the government. And I for one am inclined to cut him some slack because by virtue of his conduct during his campaign he has earned a measure of trust. And he will continue to earn that trust-even if he doesn't do everything that we want him to do-so long as he deals with the American people in good faith.

But really, who would spend all their time writing about politics if they weren't naturally cynical, and wanted to criticize those in power? What fun would their be in heaping praise day in and day out on someone, or defending everything they do (I wouldn't know, but you can try asking some right-wing bloggers.) None of our natural cynicism and suspicion is gone simply because we heard "hope" in one ear and "change" in the other.  

What I'm trying to say basically is this: we are still a little bit teary-eyed over Obama's victory. We are jubilant that the man most qualified to lead our country to peace and prosperty has been elected. We are in awe of history shaping up before our very eyes. But that doesn't mean we've lost what little sense we ever had in our heads in the first place. Obama is off to a fantastic start, and we're ecstatic about it. But we have expectations, and Obama has also set a pretty high bar for himself. If he falters, or wavers, or reverses himself, you can be assured that our disappoitntment will most certainly be registered here.

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