Monday, October 11, 2010

The Audacity of Disappointment

Why are we so disappointed with Barack Obama? A recent piece in the Boston Globe blamed it on our brains. "Research suggests that even when people know that someone has nothing but bad options to choose from, they still blame the decider for a bad outcome." Even worse: as time goes on, we think in more and more glowing terms about "what might have been if different decisions had been made, different policies pursued, or different politicians elected," and therefore feel even more disappointed with what actually happened.

The psychological explanation of "the big letdown" is a conservative explanation. It implies that things never could have been as much better as we think. Hope and change are delusions. As Hegel said, what is, is right--because TINA (There Is No Alternative).

How about a political explanation instead? We are disappointed with Obama because as a candidate, he seemed to get it that radical change in this country is urgently needed, and then as President, he forgot all about that. We are disappointed because he and his advisors said, in so many words, that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste--and then proceed to waste it, by failing to explain to the country what got us into this mess and what it would take to get us out, permanently. We are disappointed because it doesn't matter what options it seemed he had: the reason we elected him was to create new options. We are disappointed even if we knew all along ( as many of us did, and wrote) that Obama was a cautious technocrat by training and inclination. We are disappointed because we need and deserve better--and because not to be disappointed would be to accept the unacceptable state of affairs in which we continue to live.

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