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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Obama's challenge

Q: Although Washington D.C. residents give Mayor Adrian Fenty high marks for improving schools and other city services, he's fighting an uphill battle for reelection this week because he is seen as having ignored the traditional political process. Yet President Obama's popularity is also suffering precisely because his patient working of a broken Congressional process limited his accomplishments, diminished his stature and alienated his political base. How should leaders balance the often conflicting demands of achieving dramatic results and building consensus?

People want to follow a leader who engages their values and promises to further their interests. In the euphoria of his election, a majority of Americans projected their values onto President Obama. The Left believed he would make America a fairer, more caring country. Independents believed he would dissolve the conflicts that poisoned the political waters of Washington. However from the start, the Right did not believe he shared their values.

The achievements of the administration failed to meet the expectations of Obama's fans. The Left wanted more government control of healthcare--a "public option" at least to compete against insurance companies--and it resented government support of the banking industry. The huge salaries of bankers rankled. And the expanded war in Afghanistan, the one decision of Obama's that was supported by Republicans, disappointed and even angered liberals.

Independents see nothing for themselves in the Obama achievements. Expanded healthcare is for the 30 million who lack it, not for them. Their premiums and co-pays continue to rise. The elderly who got Medicare Advantage are losing it, and the young resent being forced to buy insurance.

The media pundits tell Obama he should focus on employment, that people are hurting. But 90 percent of the workforce is employed. People who have not been out of work ask me where the stimulus went. They don't see any benefit for themselves. Many who have lost jobs lack the skills for the work being offered, and that can't be remedied quickly.
In fact, the country does not seem in such bad shape. Even though corporate executives complain about new regulations and taxes, many companies are thriving and the stock market is rising.

Obama's achievements can be seen to set the stage for a stronger, more educated, healthier country in the future. But many people don't see this. They are anxious, unsure of the future. Perhaps a reassuring father figure like FDR or Ronald Reagan could persuade Americans that they have nothing to fear but fear itself, that our best days are ahead of us. But Obama is not a father figure, even to his supporters who want him to be more aggressive. And he has not made the case to a majority of the country that he is furthering their interests.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  September 14, 2010; 5:06 PM ET
Category:  Government leadership , Political leadership , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Obama and Fenty guilty of poor communication | Next: Voters don't know or care about the 'traditional process'


Please report offensive comments below.

Ronald Reagan was NOT a father figure. As a 45 year old African American, I can honestly state that I and everyone that I know suffered under Ronny. Before you begin to place my life in Bush's box that is marked "irrelevant", you should know that I am squarely middle-class, from professional higher educated parents, and many members of my family have held local political office.
There has been a re-write of history with regard to this man. He was a good actor at best. The Savings and Loans crumbled under his leadership. The drug culture proliferated and ultimately supported the failing economy. The mortgage rate hit record highs. He had total Republican control of all three branches of government. The rich got richer and everyone else was......in trouble.
Let's just say....we survived Reagan.

Posted by: ben4 | September 15, 2010 10:17 AM
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