President Obama’s Political Landscape

One thing that some supporters of Barack Obama like about the new President is his “post-partisan” appeal. They praise President Obama for not being a typical politician—conservative or liberal—all the way down the line. We could call him a maverick, but that political nickname has already been claimed.

The President’s ability to nod to the political sensibilities of both sides of the divide was showcased at one point during his European trip, but on another occasion this quality seemed to be missing. The President recently called for a world without nuclear weapons and he spoke of how the United States needed to lead the way on this. He argued that the US needed to get in front of this, not because we are bigger or better than anybody else, but because we are the only nation that has used nuclear weapons on an enemy. This all sounded like typical liberal thinking—unilaterally disarm and hope that the people who want you dead or beaten will somehow be inspired to change their minds. However, the President said that the US must defend itself, and would always do so, thus nuclear disarmament might not be achievable in his lifetime. In other words, typical conservative thinking—disarmament sounds nice, but it isn’t practical anytime soon. Liberals might be upset about the last part of his speech, conservatives might be upset about the first part, but the President spoke for the concerns of both sides. Maybe that’s why so many people like him.

On another occasion on the trip, though, the President’s language wasn’t quite as well-rounded. Speaking in Turkey, President Obama said, ‘We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.” He was trying to make the worthwhile point that we have religious freedom in this country.

Regarding the part about being a Jewish or Muslim nation—no kidding. According to an article I read recently, a study on religion in America revealed that Jewish and Muslim Americans combined make up less than 2% of the population. However, the same study showed that 76% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Does that make us a Christian nation? There is other evidence you could cite in favor of this view, and there are arguments people use to attack the notion.

The truth about whether or not we are a Christian nation is actually a separate issue from the one I am focusing on here. My point is that it’s inaccurate to categorically state that Americans are all like-minded on this subject. It actually seems to indicate that the President has surrounded himself with people who all share the same perception on this topic. It seems to display a big city, liberal secular kind of world view. Certainly, those who share this world view would have been more likely to support the President than they would John McCain, so it makes sense that Obama shares their values. But on this issue, the President seems to have misplaced his ability to speak for both sides of the political and cultural aisle. That’s unfortunate.