Why Obama is More than Bush with a Human Face

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Slavoj Žižek in The Guardian:

So should we write Obama off? Is he nothing more than Bush with a human face? There are signs which point beyond this pessimistic vision. Although his healthcare reforms were mired in so many compromises they amounted to almost nothing, the debate triggered was of huge importance. A great art of politics is to insist on a particular demand that, while thoroughly realist, feasible and legitimate, disturbs the core of the hegemonic ideology…

In Europe, the ground floor of a building is counted as zero, so the floor above it is the first floor, while in the US, the first floor is on street level. This trivial difference indicates a profound ideological gap: Europeans are aware that, before counting starts – before decisions or choices are made – there has to be a ground of tradition, a zero level that is always already given and, as such, cannot be counted. While the US, a land with no proper historical tradition, presumes that one can begin directly with self-legislated freedom – the past is erased. What the US has to learn to take into account is the foundation of the “freedom to choose”.

Obama is often accused of dividing the American people instead of bringing them together to find bipartisan solutions – but what if this is what is good about him? In situations of crisis, a division is urgently needed between those who want to drag on within old parameters and those who are aware of necessary change. Such a division, not opportunistic compromises, is the only path to true unity. When Margaret Thatcher was asked about her greatest achievement, she promptly answered: “New Labour.” And she was right: her triumph was that even her political enemies adopted her basic economic policies. True victory over your enemy occurs when they start to use your language, so that your ideas form the foundation of the entire field.

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