What Kind of President?

by Stacey Kors
The Obama Question: A Progressive Perspective
By Gary Dorrien
Rowman & Littlefield, 232 pages, $35
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In his concluding chapter, “What Kind of Country?,” Dorrien draws on his background as a theologian and ethicist to delve into America’s crumbling social structure, which he blames on a variety of noxious influences, including conservative conspiracy theorists, the ever-widening economic divide, and an increasingly narcissistic, individualistic, and rootless middle class. In the midst of this moral cynicism, Dorrien claims, Obama remains an optimistic, forward-looking communitarian, promoting connection and civility while supporting social justice.

While this final ethical analysis is interesting, it feels like an afterthought. Moreover, it is too oblique to be a call to action. A stronger rallying cry for ambivalent progressives would be a reminder of the reforms that Obama still hopes to achieve if he wins a second term: an overhaul of America’s educational system; a comprehensive immigration policy with a path to citizenship; a federally funded green-energy program; and a long-term, job-creating rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure.

In making the case for a second term, The Obama Question oddly overlooks the most basic of all arguments: that meaningful change, especially in a democracy, takes time. This may be a hard sell in our impatient, myopic society, but it is a concept that progressives, by definition, should be able to grasp.

Stacey Kors is a freelance writer and critic. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the Financial Times, and Gramophone. She lives in New York City.

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