Obama’s Excluded Middle image

Obama’s Excluded Middle

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In January 2013, in his second inaugural address as President of the United States, Barack Obama said this:

For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and business to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.

The excluded middle at work in that paragraph is precisely the problem with contemporary political discourse, argues Yuval Levin in The Fractured Republic. There are only two options: doing things alone, or doing things as an entire nation. What about mediating institutions, like unions, societies, churches, mosques, charities, companies, clubs, military units and families? Levin writes:

In Obama’s view, and that of many other liberals, there seem to be no meaningful middle layers of society. Our only modes of action appear to be as a “single person”, or “one nation and one people.” It is a view that flattens the complex, evolved topography of social life and leaves us no way out of the corrosive feedback loop of individualism and centralisation.

I find it interesting that the British Left is far less inclined to think this way than the American Left, with a far greater belief in (and commitment to) mediating institutions like unions, societies and the like, and far less squeamishness about praising the family. So I don’t think this is an endemic problem of leftism, especially since the UK is well to the left of the US by most meaningful standards anyway. But nevertheless: an interesting point.

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