Every American Should Take ‘The Obama Test’

Yes, that includes you.

A Grain of Saul is a weekly column that digs into some of the biggest issues we face as a nation and as an international community in search of reliable data, realistic solutions, and — most importantly — hope.  

The political hypocrisy of ordinary Americans, politicians and pundits is everywhere you look. But there's an easy way to identify it: I call it "The Obama Test."

The Obama Test is a simple, quick and worthwhile thought experiment that all politically engaged Americans should take the time to engage in. Any time you either read an article — or a headline or a tweet —  about President Trump and his administration, pause to ask yourself, "How would I react if this were President Obama?"

If your feelings change about president's actions, then there's a good chance you're unknowingly participating in the kind of political hypocrisy that has hamstrung meaningful dialogue amongst Americans from different political leanings.

Imagine, for a moment, how liberals may have reacted if former President Obama was touting a deal to free American prisoners in North Korea just a week after North and South Korea agreed — publicly — to take steps towards denuclearization? Left-leaning pundits would hail him for his brilliant foreign policy, call for him to win a Nobel Peace Prize and explore the ins and outs of his dealmaking for weeks (much like conservative pundits are doing for Trump now). 

NEW YORK CITY - SEPTEMBER 19 2017: The UN 72nd GA opened its first week with debate, bringing a variety of world leaders to the GA Hall. President Trump addresses GA, characterizing Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man."a katz / Shutterstock.com
NEW YORK CITY - SEPTEMBER 19 2017: The UN 72nd GA opened its first week with debate, bringing a variety of world leaders to the GA Hall. President Trump addresses GA, characterizing Kim Jong-un as "Rocket Man."a katz / Shutterstock.com

Conversely, imagine how Republicans would have reacted if Obama had admitted to paying off a porn star following an alleged affair that occurred while Michelle was at home with their children? Fox News pundits would say that he had disgraced the office, some Republican congressmen very well may have moved towards impeachment, and plenty of Americans would insinuate that he was a poor representative of African Americans. He certainly wouldn't have enjoyed the continued support of evangelical Christians.

It's concerning that these hypocrisies exist at all, but the fact that they seem to be infinite in number is devastating for our political discourse. 

In the last few weeks alone, we can see them in almost every piece of breaking news: if Obama had been caught dictating a letter about his own health, the conservative blogosphere would have exploded. Even in the last few years, with the economy growing and unemployment plummeting at similar rates, conservatives went from criticizing the economy to cheering it. And the opposite is true of liberals. 

Acknowledging and resolving these hypocrisies could be a crucial step forward to heal the divisions our country feels. Despite Americans agreeing on many of the largest issues, the country is still incredibly divided. Part of that could very well be because we so infrequently give praise to the politicians we don't align with politically. Democrats and Republicans seem almost incapable of praising the other side or of criticizing their own.

Using "The Obama Test," you can identify your hypocritical political feelings and hopefully learn to acknowledge the good in politicians you don't support and the bad in candidates you typically stand behind. If you can manage to do that, it'll be a lot easier to talk to people across party lines, and it might just bring the country a little bit closer together.

Cover photo: Shutterstock / Evan El-Amin / Andrew Cline / Shutterstock.com.

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