greensword: (he saves children)
[personal profile] greensword
The transition from Bush to Obama has been a strange one for me. There is a certain ease to opposing someone whose ideology is so different from yours. There is no need to be subtle, to try and tease apart where things are going wrong - you know why they are doing this thing that you hate: because they don't value what you value.

With Obama, things are different. He tells me that he values what I value - liberty, tolerance, security. And yet somehow I find myself outraged, again and again, by his actions. And I find myself trying to make excuses for why he is doing what he's doing. "He has to compromise," I tell myself. "He wants to stand up for our beliefs, but he can't."

It's what psychologists call the Fundamental Attribution Error. It is more complex than simply assuming the ill will of enemies and the good will of friends. It is a way for us to do so without feeling like bleeding hypocrites. We attribute bad outcomes to the situations our friends were put in. But we focus on the intentions of our enemies. It was their fault bad things happened. They wanted it that way. They could have changed things if they'd really tried.

And so Bush and Obama both pushed the bail-out, but Bush was stealing money for his cronies and Obama was making the best of an impossible situation. Neither Bush or Obama (so far) pushed for marriage equality, but Bush is a homophobe and Obama is just hoarding political capital. Bush and Obama have both kept troops in Iraq. Obama understands it is a strategic necessity. Bush likes shooting Iraqis just to watch them die.

Yes, there are concrete differences in ideology, policy, rhetoric between the two Presidents. But we should be wary that easy assumptions sometimes lead to disturbing biases. It is easy to let ourselves believe we are being even-handed, when in fact we are nothing of the sort.

Date: 2009-06-22 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A good point well put. That Katrina thing is unnerving. I'll have to pay more attention to this.

Date: 2009-06-22 04:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Nice link.

As far as the fundamental attribution error goes, yeah, I've sure been saying those things to myself about Obama. I hope my optimism isn't naive.

Date: 2009-06-23 01:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Very much agreed.

(If you are around this Saturday at 7pm MOSAIC has a new piece that I think you would like.)

Date: 2009-06-23 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I like this post a lot.

Date: 2009-06-24 08:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As an unaffiliated political moderate, I always find both ends of the spectrum perplexing. Why do people build their presidential candidates up into heroes, demonize the opponent, and then suddenly become all disillusioned when reality turns out to not be as black and white as they thought it was?

On the eve of the inauguration, I was talking to some of my Noogler friends about Obama. I said, "Oh, I'm an Obama supporter, I'm just significantly less rabid than most people around here. I think we're fucked either way, I just think we're slightly less fucked under Obama than we would've been under McCain." Which turns out to be exactly right, so far.

Is "slightly less fucked" a bad thing to shoot for? Why do people look at me like I'm some sort of killjoy when I say that the world is a screwed up place and we should take our victories where we find them?

I had the same reaction to the Clinton impeachment. I thought Clinton was a terrible president from 1993-1996, back when everyone thought he'd usher in a new era of democratic socialism and universal health care. I didn't trust him at all. But then when everyone started freaking out about a blow job, I was like "Dude, you knew he was a womanizer when you elected him in 1992. What's the big deal?" Why do most people seem incapable of occupying a mental middle-ground.

Date: 2009-06-24 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Why do people look at me like I'm some sort of killjoy when I say that the world is a screwed up place and we should take our victories where we find them?

I think apathy is one of the biggest problems in politics today. People see corruption and bad governance and shrug and say, "What can we do?" I think hope and excitement and energy are wonderful things, but only when channeled into actual action. If you're not going to do anything and place all your stock in national politics and an establishment candidate, you might as well be apathetic.

Date: 2009-06-25 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I used to think so too, before I realized there was a difference between caring and actually being able to effect change. The former without the latter is just a recipe for frustration and wasted effort.

Now I think that the way to really make a difference is through local, individual, and corporate actions. Instead of campaigning for president, why not campaign for that selectman candidate that you know will do a good job? Instead of complaining about Big Oil drilling in the ANWR, why not bike to work so that it becomes economically unfeasible for them to do so. Instead of complaining about censorship in third-world countries, bring Internet search to them so they know what they're missing out on.

It's much easier to change yourself than it is to force someone else to change. You might argue that the latter is even fundamentally immoral - how would you like it if someone, say the Religious Right, suddenly made a bunch of laws about what you had to do.

So I'll say again - what's wrong with "slightly less fucked"? Keep up with it for a long enough time period, and eventually you end up with "not fucked at all".

Date: 2009-06-25 03:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think we have the same opinion but a different way of putting it.

Date: 2009-06-29 12:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is a good post. I'd add, though, that realizing that one's differential evaluations of Bush and Obama might stem from the FAE doesn't compel a particular response. There are at least two ways to go:

1. conclude that Obama is, after all, similar to Bush in intending vile things under the pretense of moderation and compromise

2. conclude that Bush is, after all, similar to Obama in being basically well-intentioned but not always achieving the best results

I've always favored the second interpretation. I don't know, from your post, if you were gesturing the other way.


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