President Obama believes that massive social change occurs in three steps:
- Propose a change
- Make it happen
- Make it last
As commentator Adam Gopnik noted recently in The New Yorker, Obama believe in “radical change made through practical measures.” Obama believes that great change must be undertaken slowly and with attentiveness to the concerns of opponents.
As Obama said in a recent interview with the comedian Marc Maron:
Sometimes the task of government is to make incremental improvements or try to steer the ocean liner two degrees north or south so that, ten years from now, suddenly we’re in a very different place than we were. At the moment, people may feel like we need a fifty-degree turn; we don’t need a two-degree turn. And you say, ‘Well, if I turn fifty degrees, the whole ship turns’ over.
In another interview with George Stephanopoulos, he said:
The civil-rights movement happened because there was civil disobedience, because people were willing to go to jail, because there were events like Bloody Sunday. But it was also because the leadership of the movement consistently stayed open to the possibility of reconciliation, and sought to understand the views—even views that were appalling to them—of the other side.
Certainly this incrementalism will frustrate activists and even some progressives. (Tellingly, Gopnick calls Obama’s ideology “liberalism” not “progressivism.”) Yet it is a coherent and ambitious theory of how to #DoBigGood for an entire nation.
Disclaimer: I was an employee of President Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Images: AP/Evan Vucci, Pool; Biography.com