It has been said that the art of politics is compromise. Mention that these days and it is entirely likely you will be accused of being a traitor by those on one of the poles to which political discourse seems to have been relegated. Perhaps both sides will flail away at you.
Former President Barack Obama had something to say about that the other day. Wisely, he directed his comments at those more likely to support liberal candidates and causes than conservative ones — but what he said has value no matter where you stand, left or right.
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly,” Obama said during his Obama Foundation Summit, held in Chicago.
“The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws,” Obama continued.
Then, warming to his topic, Obama launched into social media. “I do get a sense sometimes [that] now, among certain young people, and this is accelerated by social media, that the way of making me change is to be as judgmental as possible about other people — and that’s enough,” he commented. “Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right, or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because, ‘Man, did you see how woke I was? I called you out.’ That’s not activism. That is not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you are probably not going to get that far.”
Amen, Mr. President.
We in the United States have been fortunate that, more often than not, our former presidents have served as “elder statesmen.” They have done the most difficult job on the planet. They have made decisions of war and peace. They have changed our country, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
But they understand politics and, more important, governance.
Good for Obama for injecting an important note of realism into public discourse. Those farthest out on both sides, conservative as well as liberal, would do well to heed his advice.
There is a “silent majority” in the United States. At some point, its members are going to reflect that the extremists in both political parties are doing an enormous disservice to all Americans.