A whole lot of dog-eared pages and little hot pink sticky notes litter the pages of my library copy of then-Senator Obama’s second book. Comprised of nine chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue, The Audacity of Hope is two parts political/social commentary and one part personal reflection over his time in the political arena — from a failed run for Illinois state senator to the U.S. Senate.
“Whether we’re from red states or blue states, we feel in our gut the lack of honesty, rigor, and common sense in our policy debates, and dislike what appears to be a continuous menu of false or cramped choices. Religious or secular, black white, or brown, we sense — correctly — that the nation’s most significant challenges are being ignored, and that if we don’t change course soon, we may be the first generation in a very long time that leaves behind a weaker and more fractured America than the one we inherited.” (pg. 9)
The prologue, written with a sort of in-your-face and plainly stated manner, details what my AP Government class and those of my peers across America will tell you: the political arena in America has divided us, pitted us against one another, and then routinely forgotten us. And we, the products of “no child left behind,” are facing a future of being at odds with one another and a staggering, ever-growing debt toll.
One of the passages I flagged with my bright pink sticky note was Obama’s portrayal of how “in the world’s greatest deliberative body, no one is listening” (pg. 15). It’s a harsh and upsetting reality that Obama says with very little pause before moving on to his views of the two dominating parties — the Republicans and Democrats. True to bipartisan portrayal –however true or false this may be – Obama throws a bone to the GOP, saying that not all Republicans subscribe to the Bush Doctrine.
“In both the House and the Senate, and in state capitals across the country, there are those who cling to more traditional conservative virtues of temperance and restraint — men and women who recognize that piling up debt to finance tax cuts for the wealthy is irresponsible, that deficit reeducation can’t take place on the backs on the poor, that the separation of church and state protects the church as well as the state, that conservation and conservatism don’t have to conflict, and that foreign policy should be based on facts and not wishful thinking.
But these Republicans are not the ones who have driven the debate over the past six years. Instead of the “compassionate conservatism” that George Bush promised in his 2000 campaign, what has characterized the ideological core of today’s GOP is absolutism, not conservatism. There is the absolutism of the free market, an ideology of no taxes, no regulation, no safety net — indeed, no government beyond what’s required to protect private property and provide for the national defense.”(pg. 37)
But he quickly slips back into bashing Bush — which I’m fully in favor of — but after awhile, it started to grate on my nerves and I wished he would stop playing good cop, bad cop. True, he does point out how “the Democratic Party has become the party of reaction” because “we lose elections and hope for the courts to foil Republican plans. We lose the courts and wait for a White House scandal.” (pg. 39) But, overall, the chapter on Republicans and Democrats reads like a whining schoolchild who settles for everyone’s wrong when he doesn’t get his way.
I actually didn’t flag anything in the chapter entitled “Values,” and I honestly don’t remember anything from that chapter. Continue reading