CSUN political science department discusses Obama presidency

Nikki Erinakis

The political science department hosted a discussion of the Obama presidency Tuesday night, in which President Obama’s atypical approach to problem solving was explained.

Michael Haas, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Hawaii and author of “Barack Obama, The Aloha Zen President” and Michael Dukakis, former Governor of Massachusetts and the 1988 Democratic Party nominee for President elaborated on Obama’s method.

Haas’ book explained how Obama’s upbringing in Hawaii impacted his presidency. He said Obama likes to approach problems in a communitarian way. He defined it as a middle ground solution. It is a process that requires societies and individuals to work together for a solution.

“Voters voted for him (Obama) because they wanted change.  He certainly delivered a lot of change, but we have not looked carefully at the way his personality shaped how he articulated his policies and the intricacies of how they will be implemented,” Haas said.

Haas said the American public can learn a lot from the multiculturalism and principles of Hawaii. He said Hawaiians follow a different set of values than those of the mainland U.S.

“Obama goes for compromise in solving big problems by finding common ground between extremes, but he is most interested in solutions that bring people together, to heal a divided country,” Haas said.

Hawaii is a multicultural society. A multicultural society is more understanding of others, and tends to work together, Haas said.  The mainland of the United States has a singular cultural view of the world. The values of the mainland tend to be more individualistic and less about working together, Haas added.

“Cultural change takes time, yet his number one priority is to change the culture of Washington and with it the political culture of the United States,” Haas said.

Michael Dukakis elaborated about the challenges facing Obama.

The American public is resistant to the Hawaiian spirit of Obama, Dukakis said. There are policies and philosophies that Hawaiians follow that make Obama an effective President, despite the negative attention he has been receiving, he added.

“One of the interesting questions, which still has not been answered and obviously won’t be until November 2012, is whether this spirit … which he learned and absorb as a young Hawaiian, whether …it’s going to effectively convince the American people that this is what we want,” Dukakis said.

Dukakis mentioned healthcare and said it is important for citizens to recognize that their nation has a problem, and to put issues on the table.  He said the next most effective step is to work together to find a solution to the problem the nation as a whole faces.

“Trying to build consensus is a way to get things done,” Dukakis said.

Students who attended the event said topics like this event are relevant and necessary.

Robert Morrison, 23, said it is it is important that CSUN hosts these events, and that the university should work to bring more political discussions to the university.

“It is a little strange to evaluate the president while he is still in office,” the political science major added.