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Playing the Obama Game

June 5, 2012

From Naked Capitalism:

Obama. Hippies punch back: “[The legendary] Morford encouraged voters to see Obama as a transcendent superbeing. Yet it’s those who have nuts-n-bolts policy objections to his tenure that are childishly unrealistic.” Campaign Manager Messina: “We’re going to run the most sophisticated grass roots campaign the country has ever seen.” “Obama’s 2008 donors don’t give in 2012. … ‘I wish he was the socialist they accused him of being.’”

That is some funny stuff, really… Obama as this ethereal, light bringing, enlightened being – obviously from back in 2008-9. This has been endlessly rehashed, so I won’t get too far into it, but there are only a handful of ways to really see this:

  • We are all susceptible to mythic thinking, hero projections and deeply profound states of hope, especially after what seemed like a very long 8 years of an embarrassingly dumb (at least in public) president, endless wars and horrible erosions of civil liberties, the rule of law, and America’s moral authority.
  • The truth of governing, so the story goes, is always more difficult than high minded rhetoric could ever match up to… This is the first leg of the apologist position.
  • The second leg is to claim that achievements like the luke-warm healthcare reforms (assuming they survive a supreme court challenge) and the exit from Iraq (sure, but I still have some obvious objections) as supreme accomplishments – as the only things we should focus on. If we can’t see how Supreme Leader did right by us on those two things (maybe there is another?) then we are unrealistic and childish.
  • The third leg is to claim that republicans blocked every other effort. In my mind, this is the only leg with any credible evidence. Entire books have been written on the subject. This is a deep and sad problem the US faces politically. We are a constitutional republic (requiring the parties work together) acting with a parliamentary level of antagonism. But even still, those of us who pay attention to politics can point to issue after issue where the president either bungled the negotiation with republicans or else didn’t fight hard enough.
  • To continue my objection to the third leg of the Obama apologetics, many of us with leftward leaning tendencies see Obama and big chunks of the Democratic party as far too eager to start in the center and bargain for something only half-way to the extreme right and call it a victory. This seems like a function of campaign donors and a shifting away from any semblance of a populist constituency, but that could just be me…
  • The final leg is the “lesser of two evils” arguments. From an economic perspective this seems like saying that we are either going to continue driving down this neo-liberal, free-market obsessed, deregulation and privatization road at a steady 55 MPH or we’ll let Romney come in, drop a gear, jam on the gas and see if we can get the Delorean to take us back to the future. I may agree with the argument, but you simply can’t ask me to get excited about it.


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