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Stanley Crouch: The eternal battle between doers and talkers

For years, I have talked with a group of academics and intelligent black people who despaired at the collective fate of the race. Seeing the black, brown beige and bone ethnic group as done for, doomed to swing in the evil winds of life, it was not unusual for them to complain.

They saw President Barack Obama always as a sellout or a coward who too often trembled in the shadow of right-wing folk, of wealthy special interests willing to destroy the environment for profit, of political or military men. Meantime, the swine of Wall Street were at a trough, chomping away, and the poor and the middle class were nowhere.

Beyond those forces, the complaints continued, the president was too close to his pretentious college buddies who had no sense of ethnic authenticity. Those buddies of his typically believed that white was correct and black usually too ignorant to have the best answers.

They did not want to hear about a long game, which is what Obama’s defenders always said he was playing. They wanted bold, brazen leadership — senseless counterfeit noise. This critical group could not accept a simple fact: Change almost always comes to a democracy on the local, not the express. During his first term, Obama went in believing the opposition was actually interested in governing and bettering the national future. So the parties would work toward compromise — on education, health care, straightening up the environment in sensible ways.

That proved not to be the case — and Obama proved himself to be a fast learner.

The Obama who has emerged since those naive early days understands that somewhere along the way, the Republican Party became satisfied with being talkers, not doers. Dedicated to arguing over everything and anything that carries the whiff of the president, or the slightest smudges of his fingerprints, the Republicans redefined conservative thought before our very eyes and ears. Knee-jerk resistance was supposed to convey integrity. The most superficial study of the Civil War will show that the South is always ready to rise in the defense of a lost cause.

They were the elected Washington, D.C., versions of what Rep. Paul Ryan complained of as the takers in supposed constant battle with the makers.

Perhaps that is why Michele Bachmann chose to leave office. After living in a mud bath for four congressional terms, she has fallen on her sword by choice. One of her biggest "accomplishments?" Helping bring to the floor a measure to repeal Obamacare — more than 30 times. At least she was stubborn.

Now, scandal — or, rather, breathless cries of "scandal" — has become more important than ideas, yet another empty substitute for actual Republican plans to make the nation any better.

That’s how it goes under the inane leadership of the porcine Karl Rove and the empty suit Mitt Romney.

Rove was convinced, and probably still is convinced, that the smart money will be successful if enough of it is spent. He was so incompetent and so wrong that he is now legendary for his Fox News refusal to accept that Romney had lost the election.

And Romney, the thorough loser, is now running away from reporters, apparently finally wise to the fact that standing up without pre-written commentary is not his strong suit. In fact, the longer he talks, the emptier his suit seems.

Now that Obama’s gambling for Detroit’s autoworkers is paying off, now that national unemployment is descending, now that Obamacare, slowly but surely, is affecting real lives, the public is now seeing what the opposition is — more intent on hating the president than on loving the people of the nation. In Jonathan Alter’s essential book "The Center Holds," he portrays Obama not as an infallible saint, but a man who will take his time to make up his mind, but will move when it is made clear what the importance of a decision different from his really appears to be if observed from the appropriate perspective.

Alter is well aware of the backroom politics and special interests on both sides, and makes the reader witness to a vast complexity. This is a writer who saw demographics not as a Trojan horse, but a mustang that would determine things if ridden well and right at the right time. He also understands how and why the ground game built by Obama and his team befuddled and defeated the GOP, which was less willing to work and understand a changing America than it was ready to believe Fox News.

The Obama long game will work and continue to work. Dedication and patience are necessary. The appointment of Susan Rice is meant as a thumb in the elephant’s eye and proof that the president is a master. Barack Obama is ready to throw down anytime the GOP is ready for a serious brawl. He awaits the opposition’s next move in a perpetual High Noon.

Stanley Crouch can be reached by email at