The New Yorker recently published a profile of President Barack Obama, written by David Remnick. Eighteen pages and approximately 17,000 words long, it’s the sort of long-form journalism many of us yearn for in a blighted age of listicles and blurbs and click-bait articles the titles of which sound more like threats than topics of meaningful discussion.
In the piece, the President says:
“There is a historic connection between some of the arguments that we have politically and the history of race in our country, and sometimes it’s hard to disentangle those issues [ . . . ] You can be somebody who, for very legitimate reasons, worries about the power of the federal government—that it’s distant, that it’s bureaucratic, that it’s not accountable—and as a consequence you think that more power should reside in the hands of state governments. But what’s also true, obviously, is that philosophy is wrapped up in the history of states’ rights in the context of the civil-rights movement and the Civil War and Calhoun. There’s a pretty long history there. And so I think it’s important for progressives not to dismiss out of hand arguments against my Presidency or the Democratic Party or Bill Clinton or anybody just because there’s some overlap between those criticisms and the criticisms that traditionally were directed against those who were trying to bring about greater equality for African-Americans. The flip side is I think it’s important for conservatives to recognize and answer some of the problems that are posed by that history, so that they understand if I am concerned about leaving it up to states to expand Medicaid that it may not simply be because I am this power-hungry guy in Washington who wants to crush states’ rights but, rather, because we are one country and I think it is going to be important for the entire country to make sure that poor folks in Mississippi and not just Massachusetts are healthy.”
When the President draws a connection between contemporary advocates of limited government and the vicious history of American apartheid, the public is wont to think that this connection is accepted truth. He sets a new starting point for discourse, a new baseline for measuring the claims of his political opponents. He leads the average citizen to think that there’s no argument needed for these conclusions . . . even though an actual argument is definitely called for to support accusations of this sort.
Nevertheless, he might be onto something. No. Seriously…